One of the interesting consequences of ever increasing self-service across the ITSM spectrum is the – unnoticed in many organisations – increasing average complexity of those tasks that do require human involvement.
Routine calls to the desk – from password request through to a new PC are dealt with by modern software without the need for people. Answers for foreseeable questions and actions for foreseeable situations are built into the software beforehand; decided once and then applied at (almost) zero further cost.
But what that means is that when a call to a person is required, the issue is complicated, the pre-programmed normal rules do not apply and significant skill level is required to understand and address the issue. This kind of exception work* requires not only skill and knowledge, but also empowerment to make decisions required in what are often unforeseen circumstances.
We saw many years of organisations de-skilling front line tasks. We now see major moves towards self-service and automation of the routine. Those two ideas are not compatible and as self-service automation takes hold, the result is a need to upskill the remaining customer facing roles.
All this calls for a new attitude to our front line staff; one based on genuine empowerment, which means:
- Authority – to make decisions and implement non-standard actions – including the cost and consequences of those decisions
- Knowledge – built and maintained – to help make those decisions correctly
- Trust and support for decisions made– especially being aware that, at best, they will only be right most of the time for most customers.
A useful and powerful concept, essential in the training of guide dogs, is the need to foster “Intelligent Disobedience”. Put simply, this is knowing when the rules you generally work by are not appropriate and what is actually called for in a particular situation is something that would normally be against the rules.
The traditional example is the guide dog not crossing the street when the pedestrian light comes on because they see a car coming at speed that will not stop. We see examples in all the skilled professions too from sport to surgery. In fact our television series seem to worship the idea, but in them success depends on the star rating of the perpetrator.
But this idea is applicable much more widely than service dogs, in fact it is applicable to all kinds of service support. Realising the benefits requires an environment in which it can be practised, and in many organisations that will need a change in management style. Training managers to embrace intelligent disobedience is often the hardest part!
Getting the right balance in real life needs a good and meaningful practice environment. This doesn’t have to be expensive – we are talking about people not vast technological test environments. In fact the approach is basically the same as that used for doing service rehearsals before go-live.
Of course the data and information input is critical – and it is here that modern technology needs to play its part alongside the traditional human skills. Knowledge management is central to success in solving complicated questions and in triggering and supporting intelligent disobedience decisions.
* And the whole landscape of normal vs exception is set out better than I ever could by Rob England in his ‘Standard + Case’ book. I acknowledge gratefully learning much from his writing and trainings. More information here: http://www.basicsm.com/standard-case-book