Understand the goal before you set it

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Thought: When running the race to great service: Experience counts.

When running a marathon or cycling "a century" for the first time, one usually does some serious practice. Over a period of months, you get an idea of your ability. When the inevitable question, "What time are you shooting for?" arises, the answer is suitably vague to avoid later embarrassment and also because it’s only possible set very general expectations.

Experienced professional athletes have completely different perspectives on goals. They have perfected their technique over time; they understand their fitness levels and where they are in the season, enabling them to decide to hold something back for the world championships or leave nothing in the tank at the last meet of the season. They will have a specific target time and race position.

In an organization embarking on an ITSM program for the first time, we shouldn't have the same goals as an experienced practitioner; we should have vague targets that will tighten up over time.

Single focus or multi-discipline?

The runner analogy is simple but unfortunately the IT management world is not: The practice of an IT manager is more akin to a decathlete; as a multi-discipline leader we must decide where we will get the most bang for our buck. But there are only so many hours in the day and so much money in the bucket, so where is it best to spend our valuable resources?

Start with the obvious questions:

How good is good enough? Do we really want to be world-class in a particular field?

These are questions only you can answer. As with most answers, they are usually more accurate with better more reliable information to base them on:

Do you have this information? How can you get it? Where will it come from? Is this the first step?

To get back to our analogy, even the novice runner practices, gets baseline data to build from, and understands basic but amorphous goals to aim for.

Putting this Thought into practice:

  1. The first thing to do when starting an ITIL adoption is determine where you are starting from.
  2. If you can't really determine that baseline DON'T PANIC, maybe that is a good first goal, it will be cheap with demonstrable results.
  3. Once you have a baseline try to determine where you want to improve, (speak to your customers)
  4. Now you have your starting capabilities and your chosen disciplines in priority you can work on your practice schedule and set some vague goals.
  5. Practice makes perfect, as you move from beginner to amateur to professional you can and will get better; eventually you can start thinking about being world class (if you want).

Parting Thought

Only when you are world-class can you think about your position in the race, until then you are competing against yourself to your own goals – your first goal is to make sure your goals are the right ones.


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