Sunday, 18 December 2016

Oh, hello.

I'm back.

Not for long though. Just to share some thoughts about 2016.

Ha, ha, not the big geopolitical picture - I'm sure that is going to be analysed to death in the next two weeks.

I'd rather talk about my 2016: ITSM, data , organisations and all that.

From a personal professional perspective, it was an interesting year.

After a number of years of delivering data solutions in diverse industries, I returned to my ITSM roots to put my skills to use here.

I was a little surprised to find that not a great deal of the fundamentals had changed. In the particular organisation I was working in, things were ticking over adequately, but the leaders were obsessing about the failings.

It’s the right thing to do I suppose, that striving to be better. But my, isn’t there’s a lot of shouty opinion in ITSM!

I had some dealings with qualitative customer satisfaction data and I was heartened to find that many of the reports of positive experiences were centred around the individual service giver. It was rare to read respondents enthusing about the process or the toolset, but there were many comments of the nature of “Eileen was amazing. She was really knowledgeable and patient, and not only fixed the problem, but showed me what to do if it happened again”

This was all very heartening as it fits squarely with the elegant theoretical conception which I outlined in my 2014 book. In summary, it goes: find the right people with the right values, set them free, but obviously keep light elements of control to guide and channel and keep them focused.

The other great thing that came out of this assignment was the realisation that the way that ITSM functions use data is a bit outdated. In my opinion, they could be a bit smarter about it and use the power of statistics, and the easy availability of tools such as R, SAS, and SPSS to take a good deal of the guesswork and opinion out of the practice of IT service.

I’ve written a paper about this which I believe that the itSMF will publish soon. Even if they don’t, I’ll be posting it on my Medium and LinkedIn pages in the new year.

As for 2017, I’ve accepted a new job. I’ll be an employee again after years of freelancing! It’s a super position – I’ll flitting between data development and data science in a global and important role. And it’s not ITSM!

My parting wish for ITSM is as follows – I hope that everyone can try pull together instead of pulling in different directions. I think the surety which improved data methods can provide will help that. I hope that leaders can learn to trust their people more - yes, of course there are some who are not worthy of trust, but I say again, replace them with individuals who hold suitable values – and then trust them. And then set them free.

I’m not sure I’ll be returning to ITSM, so I hope you guys get to where you want to be. But then again I said that the last time I left – so you might not have not seen the last of me!

Friday, 8 January 2016

Truth and Work

Gormley at Yorkshire Sculpture Park (Peter Johnson)
This may be a somewhat naive position, but I am among those who believe that academic pursuit should aim towards truth. That truth may indeed be relative, but I hold to the view that the goal must be to seek a universal a truth as possible. This is certainly not an unusual idea; it is normally expected that the work of (quantitative at least) researchers is guided by the search for generalisability. This epistemology holds that - as far possible - good findings are applicable to individuals, groups, societies and even humankind. Indeed, like natural scientists everywhere, work psychologists should also be aiming for truths that apply across the universe!

From the sublime to the mundane. That is, from work psychology as a quest for universals to work psychology as tool of corporate management. It has occasionally been suggested, that within this subject area the pursuit of scientific truth can be deflected by the interests of industry. The effect of this would plainly be that some work psychology research is weighted towards the realpolitik of the enterprise (profit, productivity, efficiency) rather than the greater human truth of the people (staff) within it. Therefore, in such instances teleological assumptions would not resemble, for example 'well being at work as important human end in itself', but rather 'well being at work as a psychological device to enable greater end product'. If work psychology is underpinned by the latter then perhaps the discipline should be conceptualised on a rather more vocational basis; i.e. all the best courses and great research programmes in the grandest universities are no more than training for the next generation of managers and consultants:

Enrol on a work psychology course and learn how to make staff work better, longer, harder.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Don't Fear The Future

Quote displayed in the Legacy exhibition at the Nobel Museum, Stockholm
I'm certainly no physicist. I do however enjoy the subject. I find it inspiring to read about the history of the discipline.

The physicist turned philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn has long been my guide in making sense of the twists and turns of the natural sciences. He described the way in which one paradigm (for example Einsteinian physics) replaces another (Newtonian physics) in the march of progress. However, he argued that the new paradigm is always able to incorporate the functionality of the old.

This is why in an age when the errors of Newtonian physics are well known, and when relativity and quantum mechanics describe the (current) truth of our world, many engineers can still use Newton's concepts to build engines, bridges and buildings. Newtonianism is flawed as a truth, but for simpler practical applications still works.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Ancora Imparo - The Stockholm Interpretation

Stockholm á Minuit. Peter Johnson

Ancora Imparo

Apparently Michaelangelo was fond of this phrase. It means 'still I am learning' and indeed, anyone in the business of creativity, design or innovation needs to keep an open mind.

Wandering around Stockholm this evening, I reflected on all the conversation and feedback from this last week. While I walked, I made a big effort to view these discussions from the Swedish perspective; from the point of view of one who loves order and hates chaos.

I'm pleased to say that the result was a mild epiphany.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Crispbread, Meatballs and erm, Chaos.

Sundsvall A.M. by Peter Johnson
I'm sat in a busy hotel in Sundsvall. I've just finished a series of four talks in different parts on this country which were organised by the lovely people from itSMF Sweden (special big shoutout to Daniel Billing).

I was of course here to flog my Control-Chaos-Values approach to the workplace. What I love about doing this in public is the range of responses that one receives. There are still too many of the folded-arms, rigid expression variety, which generally tell me that I'm either being boring (sorry if that was the case), or that these individuals are simply not prepared to countenance such radical change to the way things are currently done.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Getting Used to This

Typically Langdocien (Peter Johnson)
It's very hot.

I'm sat on a large, typically Languedocian balcony high above a typically Langdocian street, drinking a glass of the local rosé, while Mrs J. is watching a French quiz show on TV inside the flat, as she does each night to improve her already excellent language skills.

I'm just chilling out. It's the last week of this southern chaleur as, on Saturday, we'll be heading northwards. It's been a great vacation. The temperature has been lovely - in the mid-thirties throughout our time on the Italian and French riverias, and during the first week in Montpellier. This week it's mainly been high twenties but that'll do! It seems like ages since we were in Yorkshire.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Travels, Things Quantum and Work Psychology

Villa in Riva del Garda, Italy. (Peter Johnson)
I'm starting to feel a little like a character in a 1960s euro-movie. I'm sat in bed in a hotel on the Italian riviera, auburn-haired woman asleep by my side (ok, it's the wife but let's not spoil the simile). We have driven here from Sheffield, via Operation Stack on the M20, delayed Eurotunnel trains and illegal immigrants in Calais. We stopped for a night in Troyes in  the Champagne department of France, and the next day drove to wonderful Geneva, Switzerland where we spent a lovely evening.

After queuing for ages to get through the Mont Blanc tunnel the following day, we made it into Italy and were presented with the challenge of the busy (and a little scary!) Friday afternoon A4 Autostrada traffic around Milan, Bergamo and Bresica. By early evening we had made it to our little hotel on the edge of Lake Garda.