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 Feature
25 November 2009 | Ian Clayton Blog
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The Management Imperatives
This week Ian looks at why it is the responsibility of a service management professional to understand the role and key elements of a continuous improvement program...

  Ian Clayton
  Management Imperative

The project manager closed the two-hour meeting designed to brief the management steering committee responsible for funding the service management initiative with a call for support for the next stage.  Pointing to the high quality wall charts surrounding the audience, the manager concluded, “After six months we now have a clear and detailed description of the ten key process areas we need to implement, and where we plan to begin.”

The single committee member still left in the room stood up and addressed the ten person team, “very impressive, very, please let me know when you have a light version and how we might roll out the lighter version over our 100 plus locations.”  He turned, smiled and left. 

Elsewhere at a major international energy conglomerate, the project manager sat down after a harrowing session with senior management.  The morning had been spent responding to the unprecedented number of complaints citing unexpected additional complexity and bureaucracy resulting from the recent deployment of a new incident management process.  A decision was made to stop any further process implementations and revert to the previous, simplistic but flawed incident system.

These are just two of many examples of how the economic climate is forcing management to ensure the promise of service management is properly scrutinized and scrubbed.

As management tightens budgets, eliminates discretional spending, and re-prioritizes investments, these type of initiatives are rightfully being questioned and tested by what I term the ‘management imperatives’. 

30-60-90 Rule
The diagram in the image box above summarizes these imperatives, and can be simply read as saying, ‘I want more of this (left hand column), and less of that (right hand column)’.   It acts as a filter for the benefits promised from service management initiatives.

Each side of the management imperative figure offers a set of performance indicators. These are not new imperatives, and nowhere on the list do we find indicators targeted by the traditional approaches to service management, such as ‘process’, ‘maturity’, or ‘lifecycle’.   The imperatives represent are a healthy reminder to proponents of service management initiatives that relevancy to the objectives and performance goals is a must to gain stakeholder support.

The imperative figure includes an additional attention grabber – the ’30, 60, 90 day rule’.  The 30-60-90 rule is not new, being a common management tactic used to partition the problem and effort, and add focus to an idea or proposed solution.  The rule is a ‘time-box’ into which specific deliverables are placed, ensuring pragmatic thinking and a response to the ‘are we there yet?’ question.

Existing projects and initiatives are reviewed and their relationship to whatever prevailing management imperatives assessed and documented.  The 30-60-90 rule is used to timebox promises to avoid the all too familiar ‘field of dreams (build it and they will come)’ strategy.  Non-performers are shelved, others abandoned, some perhaps permanently.

In practice we can often find we are just not measured by these factors alone.  Somewhere in the mix each imperative is also connected in some way to a performance management framework , designed to related service provider performance measures (as commonly found in service contracts), with measures that help the customer and enterprise track progress against their business objectives.  The imperatives are each related to a key performance target, and in turn to a key performance indicator, and again to a key result area or critical success factor. 

The stakeholder community and their interest, in the form of objectives, strategies, plans, and their level of accountability for the desired results, will be connected in someway to one or more elements of the performance management framework, and thereby each management imperative.

Elements of a Continuous Improvement Program
One of the easiest and most practical means of connecting existing and planned initiatives to organizational objectives, and the management imperatives, is using a continuous improvement method.   Generally speaking, an improvement program must help create a reason for change by targeting specific performance management framework measures.  The program should preferably be ‘self-funding’, covering its operational costs from the get-go with benefits returned from the fruits of its operation. 

The program should be able to be started and stopped as required by management, leverage industry best practices when forming solution elements, and focusing more on the problem and its affect upon the consumer, than the solution or process.  The 30-60-90 rule or equivalent, and specific mapping to stakeholder interests, ensures momentum and relevance.  In general a program should contain at least the following key elements:

  1. A statement of the problem hypothesis and preferentially link this to factual evidence
  2. A description of the impact of the problem upon individual stakeholders
  3. An analysis of the presumptive, contributing and root causes, checking control barriers, changes and tasks
  4. A statement of solutions or countermeasures developed to address each cause, ranked, prioritized, and a selection of the best solution set
  5. Action plans for each solution, and an approval process for the solution set
  6. A method and criteria for verifying the desired results are achieved, and a statement of the benefits realized

The economic ‘perfect storm’ is a timely reminder of the clear and present danger of approaching service management as a task designed to just re-engineer or replace processes, mature process capability, or adopt a preferred set of best practices.  

It is the responsibility of a service management professional to understand the role and key elements of a continuous improvement program and how to engage a program to ensure existing or planned service management initiatives meet the needs of the management imperatives.

Service management starts, and is propelled by the ability to continuously improve any and every aspect of the management imperative diagram show, and 2010 is likely to be the year ‘how-to’ education on the design, implementation and operation of a continuous improvement program.

Any feedback and comments are always welcome!! 


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