The new age executive

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Some businesses are cursed with the inherency of being too big to fail. Besides all the difficult things this does to the economy, it essentially stunts the company’s ability to innovate and spread learning through-out the organisation.

Businesses and the people within them will always experience failure and success, but these misfortunes and achievements mean very little if they are not learnt from. The bear minimum of ‘learning from failure’ is to prevent the same thing from happening again, sadly this is the limit a company will go to all too often.

For me, learning and innovation is one of the most significant differences I see between large enterprises and small/startup businesses. A Larger entity will often resolve failure by eliminating the source of it; firing the person responsible, shutting down a project or burying it and hiding any on-going failures from view. What we are seeing more and more in younger businesses and startups is a dedication to innovating its way through failure, seeing every problem as an entrepreneurial opportunity to apply a solution and grow because of it. The perspective shift is very much from :

“How do we teach our organisation to stop doing this?”


How do we use this to help us learn how to learn?”

Perhaps it has something to do with experienced business managers having seen similar problems repeat time and time again, but the issue there is that the opportunity to learn problem solving and reflection is withheld from the younger and more in-experienced staff.

A good business creates the time and space for it to learn and opens up that space to everyone, whether it be giving people independent time to reflect on their own work and professional relationships, or giving groups the platform to peer-coach each other through problems and to explore and validate ideas.

These approaches are not something unique to larger or smaller business, but it is something short of imperative to new companies and potentially over exposing of poor leadership to the large.

We can see living examples of it working all over, such as Googles 20% innovation time and Coca-cola’s internal focus on innovation and entrepreneurship.


“Small companies know how to start but don’t know how to scale, however big companies know how scale but don’t know how to start” David Butler (VP, Innovation and Entrepreneurship at The Coca-Cola Company)

The company I work for is a global organisation, yet our MD constantly refers to us as entrepreneurial by nature. That focus and core value allows us to behave in such a way that opens up quick and lean peer-led learning and enables us to launch cool new services and products (wins and fails,) all the time.

When ‘lessons learned’, problem solving and innovation is approached as a process or best practice, it is lowering the potential of an organisation – it is almost like taking the monkey at a typewriter theory and trying to apply a framework or process flow to it in order to make it quicker and more efficient. Whereas when learning and innovation are treated as a core values; that inform the intrinsic culture of both leaders and followers alike, the outcomes of  innovating the way you innovate, suddenly become a lot more possible and a lot more real.



How We Communicate Online

An infographic to explore email and social networking trends


Nothing these days is what it seems. Scratch the surface of the things you know and you discover truths that are quite different, organisations and products that you feel to be magical and magnificent are created by people surprisingly humble and simple, and others that appear bold and believable are actually fuelled by fear, deceit and greed. We use words and processes to hide our faults when really it all boils down to human intuition. Great things come from people making great decisions, but those unable to recreate this greatness for themselves, often demand the blueprints for success in the form of frameworks, certification and processes. Then gladly blame them for being out of date or not relevant enough when they fail.

As technology and people come to call for more transparency we become frustrated by what we see and then in moments bravery and unity we call for change. Whether it be something political or economical such as the Occupy movements, or something more more specific such as our recent SM Congress discussions within the ITSM community.

Revolution and change creates the greatest impact when it is used to remove complexity and embrace simplicity and something more harmonious. The trouble is that complexity is used as a tool not just to protect systems and architecture, but people and their power, and it almost by design creates huge distances between those in control and those under control. The bureaucracy and policy put in place to educate and guide us through to more certain success is ironically stifling those it proposes to support.

More enormous and important examples such as the revolutions against race, gender and sexuality inequality echo this, removing the complexities of segregation, discrimination and labelling, and simplifying everything with equality and unity. Simplification in its purest form works, human nature accommodates it well. Why should technology and business be different, why should anything be different?! The only people with something to lose are those who benefit from hierarchical complexity and in some cases those positions may only exist to safe guard that very hierarchy and justify it’s own existence.

So we call for transparency. Through exposing our strengths and weaknesses we can motivate peers by celebrating failure and use success to collaborate with those inspired by it.

Talk to each other, collectively you have the knowledge and the skills to build support environments needless of ITIL, trust each other enough and you don’t even need your managers. Focus on a purpose, unify life, business, technology and services. CIOs, SM Congress or IT celebs can’t do this for you, but hopefully they can help you to believe that you can.

Revolution is not just a call action, but a call for awareness.


There comes a time, may it be for something small like building a new SLA or something big like re-structuring an entire service desk, where you will need to make a decision as to whether you are using Customer Experience or Governance led design to build your services. I suspect that in our current cost and framework focused environments, this decision is not very consciously made and will often fall over to the Governance side of the service design world. Governance led design allows us to say NO a lot, and from the very outset we can make decisions about what our customer will not be able to do. Governance led decisions are driven by a need to protect data, the integrity of our systems and to adhere to some level of regularity or consistency. Unfortunately we often see Governance over played and key aspects of delivering a good service are sacrificed.

The other end of the spectrum is the Customer Experience led design; here we see design decisions being made based on how we want a customer to feel, then working backwards from there to develop the technical, practical and policy requirements to fulfil the desired experience. Done well, this style of service design can not only greatly empower the customer but the service staff too. This is because the idea of delivering a service with the end goal being the customer walk away feeling as though they had a great experience is far easier to connect to and feel passionate about doing. Delivering a great experience over abiding to a set of rules or policies is something that an individual and a team can put their personality into. This is a cultural difference just as much as it is strategic or technical one and an Experience focused team require less management and more leadership to help keep them aligned to the vision of great service, whereas governance led services tend to require far closer people and resource management, effectively using ‘Fordist’ methods to get a very certain outcome.

I recently saw a governance led decision made in a Service Desk to change the way password resets were handled, which was causing some password requests to take up to 3 days to complete. This is a significant drop in the service desks ability to provide a good customer experience and I believe that had this decision been approached from a Customer Experience perspective, we could have quite quickly created a solution to the proposed problem that would have achieved the same outcomes around security but without the negative impact on both the customers and service staff.

I think there are some fears and concerns around allowing Customer Experience to lead a design process as it is seen as a too softer approach and that it is not weighted enough to implement secure and manageable processes. I think this is a mistake made by those that are only scratching the surface of what Experience led design means; showing customers that their data is secure, ensuring that infrastructure is well maintained and minimising down time are all important features of a great experience. We can deliver a fully-fledged cost and time effective IT Service that contains all the features we are required to have around security, consistency and governance but without the (fast becoming) old fashioned impressions of IT being overly protective and closed to truly understanding what a customer and business wants from the technology it uses and the people it looks to for support and guidance.

I recently appeared on an ITSM USA show with Mark Kawasaki and Matt Beran, discussing ‘The Future of ITIL and ITSM’


More info on ITSM USA here.

Developing brands for service desks is something that regularly comes up at conferences and events but is rarely discussed in much detail. I suspect that is because few people working in ITSM today can claim to have much experience or confidence in building a brand. I will tell you now that branding has a lot less to do with marketing and advertising than you think, and you can look to yourself for help more than you might first assume.

To successfully build an internal service desk brand you first need to understand what having a brand really means. If you are in a mind-set of that having a brand means designing a striking logo and a clever slogan, you probably have some more thinking to do.

What you must come to learn is that your brand is actually what you do to communicate and present  yourself and build a reputation. Branding is putting strategy and design behind the things that influence your reputation. Logos, slogans, colour schemes, typefaces and Facebook pages are all just tools to enforce and trigger the association between you and the reputation your service desk holds.

A poorly run service desk will only benefit from a logo for so long, till the point where its customers simply associate that logo with poor service. So you need to develop a message, vision and culture in your teams. Something that can be easily defined and states who you are, what you do, what you want  and most importantly WHAT YOU BELIEVE.

Once you have built a team that understands and buys into that you can start selling it. Scream from the rooftops (or perhaps just by the water cooler) how great you are and much greater you want to be. Create the reputation that explains the work you do and the culture you have made… then you can go and slap a snazzy logo on it, scribe “here to help” over everything and tweet like mad because now you actually have a message that deserves a voice and gives your brand its colours.

sd brand



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