Tuesday, 13 December 2011

You might be an email junkie if...

  • You get a buzz when you check your inbox for the first time each day.
  • You use your inbox as a task list.
  • You haven’t turned off new message alerts in Outlook.
  • After a desk-side chat with a colleague that raises an action, you say “can you send that to me in an email?”
  • Things that aren’t sent to you as emails don’t get done.
  • You forward emails to yourself to move them to the top of the pile.
  • You’ve deleted your inbox out of anger/frustration, only to restore it later out of fear.
  • You start conversations with “I’ve just sent you an email about xyz” and then repeat the content verbally.
  • You use inbox folders as a project management tool.
  • You wouldn’t know what to do next if your inbox was empty – not that it ever will be.

The “death of email” saga continues, with the old guard still trying to work out what could possibly replace it.  The rest are either saying "from my cold dead hand" or putting their trust in generation-Y to solve the problem for them.
It’s time to cut the cord but the reality is that there won’t be a big bang shift from email to shiny new collaborative tools.  Why?  Because until all of your customers have dropped email as a main communication channel, you can’t drop email.  One organisation deciding to ban email internally is not a turning point.  If they pull it off, it’s a proof-of-concept - but a few “this wouldn’t have happened if we were still using email” statements uttered in the board room could pull the plug on the whole thing.

I’m looking forward to the day when I see a LinkedIn discussion “What ever happened to email?”  In the meantime, here’s a tip that most people could benefit from (including myself):

Next up:  Why anybody who attends a meeting with no agenda should be shot.

Monday, 12 December 2011

The Hybrid Organisational Model

I've been listening to another podcast of The Bottom Line,  discussing organisational structure - the pros and cons of flat and hierarchic companies.  It occurred to me that although organisations tend to be either more flat or more hierarchic, there is no such thing as a purely flat or a rigidly hierarchic organisation.  It simply wouldn't work.  Some hierarchic structure is required to support decision-making and control, and some 'flatness' is required to support cross-functional business processes that deliver outcomes for the customer.  A company with a 100% rigid hierarchy will suffer fatally from closed silos and an entirely flat organisation is a headless chicken with no leadership.

Mike the headless chicken lived for 18 months - 
That's 12 months longer than most loft-based new media companies.

Long-established blue chip multinationals typically have rigid hierarchic structures and struggle with internal communication.  Ideas coming from the shop floor are often watered down as they get pushed up the ladder to the point where ‘Chinese whispers’ takes effect and the idea becomes warped and ineffective.  However, to a certain extent, a well-defined structure is necessary to support the massive bulk of the organisation which would otherwise collapse into chaos under its own weight.

Smaller, more dynamic start-ups favour flatter organisational structures, often because they don't have the massive workforces of the blue-chips that require a tighter organisation and want to cultivate the sort of collaboration that drives agile innovation and rapid execution to compete with the blue-chips.

Where hierarchic organisations favour strong leadership and control, flat organisations promote collaboration, information sharing, productivity and innovation in day-to-day operations.  Hierarchies have their place where large-scale organisation change needs to happen - the communication of vision and the control that is required to execute that vision.  The trick is the timing of where to enforce the hierarchy and where to let flat collaboration reign.  The truth is that successful organisations use a combination of both, switching between one and the other to encourage collaboration yet retain control and solid leadership when it is required.

 Managing a 'flat' organisation takes strong leadership.  Mustache optional.

So what has this all got to do with IT?  The same principles apply to the IT department, an organisation within the organisation.  It's all about balancing the leadership and control of a well-defined structure, with the collaboration and innovation that comes with flattening out and breaking down silos.  IT needs to be part of the management function setting and communicating vision in a structural context, and needs to work with the business units that IT supports in a flat context.  In IT operations - where service delivery and support lives - a business process management view focusing on the customer outcome is critical to service provisioning that works.  This is more achievable in a flat organisation where separate functions work together in a coordinated manner to draw together service components.  Break-fix support is more about problem solving so a flat organisation also lends itself to the sort of cross-departmental collaboration that it required to solve the problem quickly.

You can listen to the full podcast of The Bottom Line at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b016ljjd

Friday, 2 December 2011

ITIL is dead. Long live ITIL.

Isn’t it about time the idea of publishing best practice books was killed off.  It’s an inherently flawed idea.  Yes, the books have served a lot of organizations well - but like any book it’s out of date as soon as it’s printed.  Yes, it gets updated, but not often enough.


People seem to be drifting away from ITIL and I think this is because it’s presented in the wrong format for the dynamic world we live in.  When will we see a collaborative, expert-moderated ITIL Wiki representing up-to date best practices?

Where a book suffers from a page limit and thus a scope limit, wikis are free to grow and branch out to solve some of the limitations of the ITIL books - like covering more prescriptive best practices for each of the industry verticals.  If ITIL is to survive, it needs to be made more valuable, accessible and pragmatic.

"Hang on, I'll check what ITIL has to say about it"