Be a Service, not Servant organization

There's a lot of confusion out there.

By "there", I mean where you are... and I am...

... and the confusion is about service - what it is and what it isn't.

The reason this is relevant to IT leadership is that we are (or should be) working to transform our department or division into a full functioning service organization.

We tell people that our core mission in life is to 'help them be successful in their jobs, and leverage technology to do things they could never do before'.

But sometimes our customers get confused.

They confuse "service" with "servant".

They seem to think that IT is their personal assistant, ready to drop everything and come running when beckoned.

And sometimes we do drop everything and come running... when there's a real emergency or equipment failure. But running a report that our customer knew was due for three weeks but didn't get around to it doesn't really constitute an emergency.  But sometimes IT is resented because they don't think it is.

So how do you balance this?  How does your team, from Directors to the newest co-op student know what constitutes an emergency?  How do they know what are appropriate timeframes for responses?  How do they politely but confidently handle the customers who are expecting 'servant' behaviour?

You could start with a service catalog, or a version of it. (See my post on What does the IT department really do? )

You also need to clearly communicate how to get assistance from IT... and then make it easy to do.  Many IT departments have a ticketing system or help desk, but does your average user use these resources, or do they find it easier to bypass these systems and call the person they know in IT?  This is known as the "end run system".

You have to define the situations that actually constitute an emergency.  Usually this is part of your service catalog.  Note: it should by prioritized based on the impact on the organization, not the convenience of the IT department.

You have to meet with your customers and provide an overview of services and expected response times.  This is usually part of new employee orientation or regular all staff meetings.  If you are not on these agendas, find a way to get on.

Once you have done this, you have to deliver consistent, equitable, exceptional service.

I am not disparaging people who are in roles that require them to be at the beck and call of another individual, if that is the career they chose.  After all, Alfred the butler was one cool guy.

In an IT organization, the only place for a servant attitude is in leadership - where you will focus with every bit within you to lead your team in ways that brings out the best in them, to accomplish things they didn't think was possible.  But that's another post.


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