“Clean this house from the inside out”
– Issac Caree, Clean This House
(It’s not always hip-hop guys. I do listen to Gospel music too….)
On my 14th birthday, my dad gave me $100. Well, he didn’t just give it to me – he told me it was somewhere in my room. Like most teenagers, my room was an absolute disaster. I’d have to clean my room to find it.
“No problem” I thought to myself. I figured he’d put it somewhere simple where I could find it in a matter of minutes. It wasn’t in my sock drawer. It wasn’t underneath the bed. It wasn’t in my “Above the Rim” Soundtrack CD case. It wasn’t in between my Sega Genesis and Sega CD console.
Clearly, I’d have to take this search for value to another level. That day, I developed a cleaning model that I still use today.
I pushed everything (from the floor, under the bed, inside the drawers and atop all surfaces) into one big pile in the center of the room. I wanted to see everything in front of me to sort out. Next, I sorted through the pile, making sure nothing would be throwing away in the process. Then I methodically and meticulously put things back where they belonged, ensuring that as I did so, I’d look in non-obvious places for value. Lastly, I swept the floor, made the bed and bagged trash for disposal.
So the room was clean, but much to my chagrin, I hadn’t yet located the funds.
What if my father was playing a cruel joke on me? If so, it wasn’t funny, because he would then be guilty of playing with my emotions. When I asked if that was the case, and he replied with a laugh and reassurance that it wasn’t, I only grew more frustrated. I stormed to my room, fist clenched and full of anger.
When I walked into my room, I stopped to realize how it was now an impeccably clean space, with no junk or clutter on the ground. I was able to maneuver through the room in ways I hadn’t been able to in weeks. With nothing on the floor to draw my eyes downward, I was looking at my room different for the first time in a while. That’s when I realized that it might be a good time to rearrange the posters, so that Cindy Crawford would be the last thing I saw before I went to bed.
That’s when I realized that my father was a cruel man. Tacked to the upper right corner of the Charles Barkley poster over my bed was a crisp $100 bill.
Stop laughing. Seriously, stop it.
Almost 20 years later, I think about what my father was doing. Sure, he could have said, “clean your room, and then I’ll give you your gift” or “clean your room because I’m your father and I said so”, but he didn’t. In fact, he didn’t even suggest I clean my room at all, he simply told me what was in there and left it for me to find, if I wanted to. And by not hiding it in an obvious place, he made me work for it. The well-taken point was that sometimes you have to clean up things you have to find the hidden value in what’s within your immediate grasp.
I tell this story because it reminds me of the tendency I&O organizations disregard the value that they are sitting right on top of. They look for quick wins in the sock drawer, or in CD cases, and when they can’t find it quickly, they get frustrated. The response is usually haste, and the push is to throw out all the hard process design, customization and configuration work away, before being self reflective. They forget that they moved into a clean room, and they made it messy. That would be like me blaming my father for my room being dirty, because he bought me so many clothes, video games and CD’s.
What if organizations just cleaned their rooms up? What if they stopped to recognize what changes need to be made before they start looking at new rooms? What if instead of building a long list of new requirements for new rooms, they changed their practices on how they manage their current one? More than we all care for it to be the case, the solution I&O organizations arrive at is to rip and replace, with the belief that things will be different this time.
It might be, but it won’t be sustainable.
Quick wins with new tools have more to do with the process of cleaning your room than they will with moving into a new one. A business case for a new tool is that it will allow organizations to clean up, and that proposition is backwards. The logic is that by quickly get everything in front and center and putting it back where it belongs provides a better overview of what services they deliver, and how to better support them. When you clean room, I’d expect First Contact Resolution and Customer Satisfaction go up. What is harder to do is keeping the room clean, while you work to better meet the demands of the business at the pace they desire. Your clean room may actually work against you, by setting expectations that you may not be poised to deliver on. Your clean room is a start, but ultimately your organization must undergo a culture change, much like the one you needed to undergo the last time you acquired a shiny new tool set. We have to move beyond a “quicker picker upper” culture, and into one that better allows us the flexibility to move at the pace of change the business requires to better enable outcomes. A clean room is the minimum expectation, not the gold standard.
So as you review the Magic Quadrant for IT Service Support Management Tools, 2013, please keep people, process and culture transformation at the forefront of your mind. Between now and the time you look to select your next tool, take steps to systematically clean up internally, so you can start to view your environment from a new perspective. Start establishing processes and defining clear roles and responsibilities. Then ask yourself what a new tool can do that your old one doesn’t. Recognize that yes, sometimes you have to dance with the one you brought to the dance (another life lesson my father taught me for a completely different situation), and ask for help if you need it. Generally speaking, the real value an organization gets when they acquire a new toolset comes from professional services beyond technical implementation and integration. Let someone help clean your room, so that is’ easier to help steer the effective people and process change necessary for success. Regardless of what technology choices you make, please be sure to take steps to keep your room clean, instead of moving into new rooms that you make dirty all the time. Avoid the tendency to think that new tools transform your organization because they are easier to upgrade or provide new features and functions that you may or may not utilize.
There is value in what you have and in where you are (it’s right behind your Charles Barkley poster) but you have to spend the time to clean up your room, and keep it clean, to find it easier. The secret of your future is hidden in your daily routine, so until you make those changes, I gather you will be eagerly anticipating the 2017 version of the Magic Quadrant.
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