In the last two years I have been seriously considering the synergies between the science of occupational psychology and the practice of IT service management. I think the germ of the idea was nourished by a number of different 'nutrients' during my IT career:
- experiences at companies who were struggling to develop a service mindset
- experiences at organisations where the management practices were poor
- my excellent undergraduate education (B.A. Social Psychology at the University of Sussex, 1993 - 1996)
- reading Rob England, the IT Skeptic's blogs in 2007
- talking to colleagues and customers
On that last point, during 2007 I asked a contractor colleague who had many years experience at organisations large and small (including Microsoft) about his view of ITIL and implementations thereof. He talked about a large public sector body which he had recently left who had spent vast amounts implementing ITIL to the letter but where service was still poor. I quizzed him incessantly to get to what he thought was the root cause; "the culture" he eventually said. "ITIL offers a process framework, but it can't change the culture".
Thus began an excellent journey to explore the science of people in organisations. It's known as Occupational Psychology or, if you live in the USA it's known as Industrial/Organizational Psychology. In other parts of the world you may hear it referred to as simply Work Psychology. Serendipitously my psychology background allowed me to sign up to the prestigious M.Sc. course at the Institute of Work Psychology at the University of Sheffield. There I explored the theoretical and empirical studies of concepts including motivation, organisational change (not ITIL Change!), culture, climate, goal setting, job design, creativity & innovation, training, well being, human-computer interaction, social networks, selection techniques, career development (I could go on). I soon realised that most if not all of these can be of benefit to service management organisations.
Specifically, SM organisations require particular behaviours, knowledge, skills and attitudes from their staff. There are many opinions and systems within these organisations about the best way to acheive these ends. The advantage of using occupational psychologists in such scenarios is that their solutions will (should!) be based on empirical evidence; up to a century of research that provides a basis for determining what is likely to work and what is not.. For example, how do you increase staff motivation for tasks which are not in themselves pleasant or enjoyable? For example some arduous process task which is critical to your operation? There's a great new theory with considerable empircal support which describes just that.
So I'm looking forward to exploring these issues in much more depth here. Follow me!