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Learning AND work – an accidental discovery

Posted By Philippa Hale, 21 October 2015

I have been focusing a lot of my recent work with clients on how to bring learning back into the workplace.  This is driven by the fact that in the ITDigital world these days, there is less and less time available for conventional training but an ever increasing need for continual learning. 

I have discovered some excellent tools that encourage and enable learning on the job, and sharing learning, in particular, FuseUniversal, which combines the best of Youtube, Linkedin, FB and Google into an incredibly easy-to-use tool that instantly got my team swapping links, ideas, discussing questions and creating their own mini-videos using their mobile phones, which they have found far more fun and motivating to actually do that the dreaded ‘documentation’.

However, I am still an advocate of face-to-face whenever possible, even video conference or audio if used properly (right etiquette on speed, clarity, simplicity, length of presentation and careful listening to ensure understanding …) is better than any written tool as at least you can hear the tone of voice.  Research tells us that we hear around 80% of the message in the other person’s tone of voice, the words make up only 20% of the message, and we easily pick up when the tone doesn’t match the words.  A smart team member or manager will then diplomatically ask something like, ‘Are you sure you are ok with this?  I’m sensing something may be bothering you.’   It may be an assumption but how many far worse assumptions do we make based on a few words in an email? And at least we can check.

As well as looking at the new tools available, I also looked back at some research into learning and communication I did over 10 years ago.

In 2004 I did some research into successful knowledge sharing across diverse groups within the IT function of a UK Building Society.  I brought together Developers, Testers, Business Analysts, Service Support and Project Managers and inadvertently sparked a chain of learning/working activities which I now include in all my client projects, and will be able to combine with this new technology too.

We used an Action Research technique, where people from each specialist team came together for 3 half-day group sessions.

Session 1 - I introduced the project and proposed a set of questions for us to debate based on the objectives of my research project.  These were refined by the group and discussed. I wrote up the initial findings

Session 2 - I presented these back to the group for a second round of discussion, then wrote up and shared the final findings and recommendations – my own and the groups’

Session 3 – Was at the invitation of the group – could we do a second round of discussion because, although the groups appreciated the findings, they LOVED the Action Research sessions themselves, where they talked to people from other teams.  The knock-on effects were very useful indeed, as they had a new and strengthened network of people they could go to in the other teams to solve problems earlier and faster.   They said they felt they were:

  • Doing something challenging, a bit different and useful
  • Had a sense of being listened to and their ideas valued
  • Seeing an immediate feedback loop – in the session itself and also back at work
  • The leadership and facilitation of the sessions enabled the group to go from polite stand-off with a hint of cynicism to openness, collaboration and a surprising level of trust in just 3 short sessions
  • It was fun and they didn’t notice time passing.  A symptom of being in the ‘flow’.

Though there was no specific instruction to do so, they started to run similar sessions themselves.  Some used the techniques as a new way of running team meetings, others as part of project kick-off workshops or group working sessions on change programmes, with clear impact on project team working and delivery.

I am running a masterclass on ITSM Leadership on 29th October 2015 with Jean Gamester, and we will be exploring and demonstrating some of these techniques along with others so do join us if you are interested in this area. For more information or to book this masterclass please click here.

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ITSMF SIAM SIG – Too many acronyms but a great day!

Posted By Steve Morgan, 07 October 2015

Yesterday, I chaired the inaugural ITSMF SIAM SIG – not some strange codebreakers seminar as the long acronym might suggest, but the first ITSMF UK, Service Integration & Management (SIAM), Special Interest Group (SIG)!

I’ve chaired the Service Level Management Special Interest Group in the past for the ITSMF, and as SIAM is now my passion, I decided to get a SIG off the ground. Its aim is:

  • To agree on a definition of Service Integration and Management (SIAM), recognizing the various forms in which SIAM appears today, which is recognized by the industry as encompassing what SIAM is about.
  • To agree a common language and definitions of common terms for SIAM
  • To outline the variations of the various SIAM models, and comment on the suitability, benefits and disadvantages of each
  • To describe the implementation approaches relating to SIAM
  • To agree upon a set of common challenges in a SIAM environment, and publish content pertaining to these
  • Run a series of events for ITSMF UK members to share knowledge and obtain feedback
  • To ultimately collate the content produced into an industry recognized SIAM framework, publishing this content as an ITSMF UK publication

The SIG consists of representatives from the Service Provider community, as well as those who represent the retained IT organisations in the “Customer” world.

We had a great day at the inaugural event, which was hosted by HP at their offices in London.
The day started with an overview of the HP view of SIAM, and we soon progressed into some lively debate about “What is SIAM”, using a paper that will shortly be published by the ITSMF that I wrote as a discussion document to get the conversation started.

We also spent some valuable time discussing potential working groups within the SIG. The aim of the working groups is to produce some content in a series of Agile-like “sprints”. Our Working Groups are:

  1. (Processes, What’s in and What’s out of SIAM, what’s the demarcation between Service Providers and Retained>?
  2. Business Case
  3. Tooling (including Data Model)
  4. People, Cultural change, behavioural

We’re aiming to have fortnightly teleconferences, supported by bi-monthly face-to-face meetings. I’m really excited that as a collective group, encompassing both Customers and Service Providers, we can really start to define some principles around SIAM, its issues and challenges, and the benefits that it can bring.

If you would like to get involved, then please head over to the Contact Us area of the website and get in touch.

I’ll keep you updated as to how we progress.

Steve Morgan – Syniad IT

View Steve's personal blog here.

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ITSMF UK, not-for-profit and led by industry volunteers - continuing to evolve to meet member needs

Posted By John Windebank, 24 August 2015

Hi all. 

The ITSM community is rich with passion, dedication, commitment, expertise and opinion. 

I want to make a few points here, but before I do let me make it clear that if anyone wants to talk anything through with me please feel free just to contact me – 

Firstly let’s set the context... ITSMF UK has a growing membership, a thriving conference, a real buzz around our Regional and Special Interest Groups and extremely well received new initiatives such as our recently launched Leadership Council, which was exceptionally well attended by senior executives across the ITSM Industry. We are passionate, dedicated and committed to the ongoing support and success of our members, the global ITSMF movement and the ITSM industry as a whole. We are continuing along our journey as an independent, not-for-profit organisation that is purely and simply about serving the needs of our members. 

We continue to be led and directed by volunteers from across the ITSM industry and supported by a small but unbelievably dedicated, committed and effective staff team, to which I am deeply grateful. In today’s world, not-for-profit organisations can only survive and thrive by running a highly efficient, effective and compliant member service operation, whilst in parallel continuing to actively engage with its members, understand what they need and develop/deliver against those needs. That is our sole aim. That is what we are absolutely committed to doing. Nothing in that respect has changed.

I guess that statement comes as no surprise. You would expect me to say that. But you know what? It’s true.

I know that there are comments in some social media threads that have expressed concern over some of the underpinning organisational changes we have made. We are all passionate about the very purpose and the performance of ITSMF UK and I want to absolutely assure you that the sole intent of executing these changes is to enable ITSMF UK members to continue to achieve maximum value from their membership. The changes to things like our Articles of Association were not done lightly, and should not be seen as a one-off exercise. In the same way that we continue to take ongoing expert financial advice on how to operate the organisation in the most effective contemporary manner (cost efficiency and compliance is a must for an effective not-for-profit), we will continue to seek feedback from our members and input from our legal advisors on contemporary best practice in the area of governance, constitution and legal structure of not-for-profit organisations in the UK. We will continue to evolve, and very gratefully accept the time, opinions and expertise that any of our members are able to volunteer to contribute to help us continue to hone and improve our underpinning operation. The better we operate, the better we can enable our members to derive value from their membership and the faster and more effectively we can drive new innovation in our services, our members and the industry as a whole.

Of course, if you or your organisation are not currently a member of ITSMF UK, we would love the opportunity to talk with you and explain what we are, and how we serve the spectrum of organisations and individuals across the ITSM Industry as an independent, not-for-profit industry forum.

John Windebank

A passionate member of ITSMF UK and a proud advocate for the global ITSMF community... and as a volunteer, Chair of ITSMF UK.

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The Impossible Ring

Posted By Philippa Hale, 04 August 2015
Updated: 03 August 2015

What can an 18-year old in a shed teach ITSM leaders and teams about continual learning and CSI?

Philippa Hale is Director of Open Limits Ltd, Associate Faculty at Henley Business School, advisor, writer and speaker for the BCS and ITSMF, leadership team coach, L&D and OD specialist, contract business change project manager.

Last summer, my 18 year-old son James taught himself not just to use a wood turning lathe but to make a goblet with an ‘impossible ring’.   This is the neck of the goblet with the ring carved out of that same piece of wood.  You can see that it is too small to pass over either the foot or the bowl of the goblet.  He did this in 3 days, having only used a lathe once before.

TImpossible Ringhis is not a proud mum story, (though of course I am!) but an analysis of learning processes – and what IT leaders and teams can learn from an 18 year old in a shed.

If you look closely at the wood you will see that it is still rough and unfinished.  But what struck me was his:

  • Level of energy, focus, drive and tenacity devoted to the task
  • Engagement and commitment
  • Creativity
  • Incredible speed of the 'plan-do-check-act' learning loop
  • Problem solving – learning from mistakes
  • Self-motivation and enjoyment
  • Fearlessness, learning a very technical skill

What would most managers give to have a team working and learning like this!

He was definitely in the ‘flow’, as Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi calls it.  In that mental, physical and emotional state where you are so absorbed in a task that you forget to eat, or to do A-Level revision!

While in IT, we have many individuals working in the flow, our shared or team flow experiences are less common. These are the focus on many team building, L&D and culture change programmes.  Collective flow and group work-learning looks, to many managers, like ‘chatting’.  I’ve even been in offices where people are forbidden to talk in between customer interactions. Stuck thinking!

An excellent example of team flow and on-the-job learning was a study of a team of photocopier engineers by Julian Orr, back in 1996.  The engineers had a central base where they met and ‘chatted’ in between jobs.  The conversations were very technical and extremely valuable. They led to increased banks of experience, faster problem solving, spotting trends and recurring issues, lateral thinking, quicker routes to fixes, customer service and relationship management. However these conversations also had a social function - bonding, sense of belonging, recognition from respected peers, team support and increased confidence.  A community of practice in other words.  Managers who limit this type of ‘chatting’ damage performance, motivation, retention and customer service. 

Finding the learning-work balance

Not all the work we do can be exciting and creative. There is operational, repetitive work to be done to run an organisation. Lots of it.  However this all got me thinking how IT leaders can create a balance and find opportunities for team ‘flow’, for motivation, engagement and performance improvement.  Also, there are different levels of experience and skill in every team.  One person’s boring repetitive job is another person’s new challenge.  And if you prefer to have the experienced person doing that job every time, beware.  He/she may well leave!

James saw no disconnect between the learning and the doing.  They were part of the same experience.  He did consider going on a wood turning course but he would have had to wait 3 months, joined the ‘beginners’ group, and his fellow learners would have mostly been retired people.  Not to mention paying for the course and attending on set dates that clashed with his revision timetable.  It is doubtful whether he would have got to the ‘impossible ring’ level of competence within a year.

Each generation (There are now 5 in the workplace) has its learning style preferences.  James is part of ‘Generation ‘Z’ who are extremely self-motivated learners and problem solvers.  He started by ‘Googling’ the knowledge he wanted, then moved to trial and error, then back to the Internet, then back to the shed for more trial and error.  He found YouTube clips, lathe manufacturers’ guidelines and tips, and other enthusiasts’ generously shared experiences in blogs and pictures.  He also shared his own experiences.

Traditional training is often seen as separate from ‘real work’: set content, standard for all participants.  E-learning and webinars have removed the set time/place constraint but lost the critical component of learning: human interaction, sharing experiences and the creation of new social networks and business relationships.

Suggestions for creating flow and work-learning

  • Talk to your people, what do they want to learn? How? When? Let them drive
  • Make sure there are enough forums in your team’s weekly and monthly schedule for knowledge exchange. You are not ‘too busy’.  That’s more stuck thinking
  • Introduce ‘skills swapping’ – you learn a great deal by coaching others 
  • Get people together who see each other as ‘part of the problem’. They will soon think of each other as part of the solution
  • Think about Internet and social media resources. Organisations like FUSE provide the latest in learning technology and organisational knowledge management platforms
  • Bring in external trainers, coaches, facilitators and consultants but be sure they are using the latest thinking – experiential learning, connected as closely as possible to the job, immersive learning experiences, simulations and action learning. They should leave you with some of the techniques they use so you can do some of your own coaching and facilitation
  • There are many resources and tools to choose from, some of which cost nothing and generate interest and job enrichment. Classroom activities?  Books?  E-learning?  Coaching?  Facilitated events?  Mentoring?  Simulations?  Job sharing?  Shadowing?  Simulations?  Master classes? TED lectures?  Blogs?  Social media?  They all have something to offer.

Feel free to get in touch. I’m always delighted to chat and explore ideas.
+44 (0)7786 154530/1202 473782

Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi (2002) – Flow, The Psychology of Happiness
Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi (2004) – Good Business, Leadership, Flow and the Making of Meaning
Philippa Hale (2004) – Bridging strategies and cross-team collaboration between ‘IT Teams’
Philippa Hale and Jean Gamester (2015) – The 7 Threads of Service Leadership (published in Service Talk, July 2015)
Julian Orr (1996) – Talking About Machines, an Ethnography of a Modern Job

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Reducing the miles, reducing the distance

Posted By Matt Hoey, 20 July 2015

The University of Nottingham may not sound like the most likely place for the meeting of the itSMF UK’s Service Transition and Improvement SIG to talk about managing transition projects across the miles.  Perceptions can be misleading. With campuses not only in Nottingham, but on the other side of the world in Malaysia and China, 600 members of staff and students from 70 different countries it was in fact the perfect place to discuss ‘reducing the miles, reducing the distance’ in transition projects.


Once we’d recovered from the excitement of finding out the campus building we were in was once the old Carlton TV studios where such ITV classics as Catchphrase, Family Fortunes and The Price is Right were filmed, it was time to come on down for the main business of the day.


The day, superbly organised and hosted by Jon Morley from the University of Nottingham and also SIG vice chair, followed the typical interactive format for our meetings where we heard from a speaker and then rolled up our sleeves and worked together exploring the topic further.


We heard first from Phil Green, Service Management Specialist at GE Capital on thinking global and acting local with process and tools.  Richard Josey, ITSM Solution Architect at Unisys, took us through the topic of people and culture.  The day was finished off exploring maturity and improvement with Sue Cater, Service Acceptance Process Expert at Atos and SIG member.


The day was very different from typical ITSM meetups.  There wasn’t a single process flow seen all day!  It was all about the skills, concepts and approaches that don’t always appear in the best practice books… how people think, consideration of local cultures (both within different parts of the UK and worldwide), building trust and persuading people to do what you want them to do when there are physical constraints such as distance involved.


ITIL did of course get several mentions throughout the day, most notably as a useful vehicle for establishing common language and terminology across different cultures and locations.  This can aid breaking down the barriers as conversations about an ‘incident’ can therefore be conducted with the two parties talking about the same thing.  It did come with a health warning though… not to rely on translation engines to translate phrases for you.  Phil gave us a great example of a misdemeanour that arose when using translation engines from English to Japanese.  The reverse English translation was something completely different!


We explored the situations where locations or remote units came up with the common phrase of “that won’t work for us, we’re unique” or simply don’t do the process.  The importance of understanding the local culture, local regulatory requirements, accommodating nuances and managing the change, not simply treating it as some tasks on a project plan, and how using tools such as the “Purpose, Picture, Plan and Part” model could help with the successful adoption of best practice in transition. 


Building trust was a major part of the discussions.  We explored who we trust in our businesses and why that was.  Richard presented a formula for building trust and stressed the fact, whilst respect comes from rank we need to earn trust.  Trust is built through being reliable and credible over too much self-orientation.  In the break out groups the attendees came up with some great ways to try and build trust from making the effort to physically attend, ensuring we aren’t driven by perceptions of the world and understanding where you are and who your audience is.


Sue stressed the importance of engaging with those involved in transition to get feedback and make improvements.  Whilst things may look right on paper are they being used?  What are people saying about them?  Sue took us through how she improved Atos’ service acceptance and the workshops explored how we can use tools such as surveys, sandboxes and social media to help drive improvement over the miles.


All in all, an enjoyable day full of lively debate and discussion and our thanks go to the University of Nottingham for hosting us and our three great speakers.


The slides from the presentation and output from the break-out sessions from the day are available in the Service Transition and Improvement discussion forum (available to logged-in ITSMF UK members).  You can also see the activity from the day on Twitter by searching on the hash tag #reducedistance.


Whether you’d be keen to get involved with the SIG, come along to an event or simply learn more about the SIG we’d love to hear from you.


Matt Hoey

Service Transition and Improvement SIG chair

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