Release the positive powers of Continual Improvements!

Ladies and gentlemen, the wheel is spinning faster than ever before, as I wrote in the last blog, the change rate in the IT industry is very high, things simply are evolving very quickly and we need to evolve as well to stay in the game. This of course also includes making sure that our IT service delivery is working smoothly, that is, we can never stop improving the four P´s: people, process, products (tools) and partners.

I claim that the only way to do this is to work with continuous improvement as a discipline within the IT service provider organization.

The secret of staying relevant is to never stop improving yourself and what you do! To ensure the improvement efforts made will not erode over time we need to get an improvement culture in the corporate backbone. Some of you might remember the post I wrote earlier about baby steps, that is to stay on your toes at all times and do some minor changes all the time. As some of you might know the CSI (Continual Service Improvement) idea was born a long time ago, in Japan, and called Kaizen (Kai = Change and Zen = Good, good change, or “change for the better”), mainly to implement continuous improvements in car manufacturing at Toyota. Without going into too much detail, the whole idea is to measure your processes and constantly improve them, almost like “tuning” them in small steps, this to constantly optimize them to best deliver business value.

Turning the CSI/Kaizen ideas into practice there are a few other aspects, other than the 3 M approach (Monitor/Measure/Manage) to take into considerations. I would like to point out a few important aspects of establishing an improvement culture within the IT service provider organization to help you evolve.

  • You need governance! There has to be someone, the active owner of this process or service, receiving and managing improvement suggestions. You need to ensure this is promptly managed, I always recommend not using a senior manager for this to avoid long lead times.
  • There has to be someone globally responsible for your improvement efforts. In the ITIL framework, this is referred to as the Continual Service Manager. This role will help your organization getting the improvement work started but more importantly to keep the momentum. It is the easiest thing in the world to do a push and then to simply move on, the CSI manager will make sure the move on part includes a portion of improvements.
  • There can be no more complaints, from anyone, just suggestions for improvements. This means that there has to be an easy and widely accessible way of recording improvement suggestions. To really improve you should also include external suggestions, from outside the IT service provider organization.
  • Ensure that there are widely available and easy visible proofs of improvement implementation for everyone to see that what someone suggested actually became reality.
  • Implement an easy to use yet informative way of maintaining improvement suggestions. You could even use a specific type of RFC (Request For Change) if you prefer, eventually many improvements will mean raising an RFC anyway. The most important thing is to ensure that the information needed to track and manage an improvement are in place. This is very useful when seeking improvement sponsorship.
  • You should absolutely try to incentivize improvements for all staff. For example using personal KPIs, rewarding people that are frequent contributors and such. The human nature is to complain but it is also to gain recognition, combining those two will really energize your improvement efforts.

Now people, believe me, I have seen some very powerful and positive effects from working with improvements in a structure and conscious way, turning whiners to contributors and involving everyone in moving all aspects of the IT service delivery forward. It might sound a bit fluffy and romantic but the power from being seen and heard amongst staff is significant and will bring other positive side effects such as workplace joy and much more.

Improvements is what keeps the world evolving and I am absolutely certain that your efforts in this area will bring you much more than you ever thought was possible, try it, I dare you, no I double-dare you!

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