Saturday, 7 June 2014

It's The People, Stupid

The Cumberland Hotel on Day 1 of #aapcon14 (Peter Johnson)
I should be sleeping. Or at least dozing. I'm on my way back to the post-industrial north having spent two utterly fantastic days at the All About People conference in sunny (and it actually was) Bournemouth.

I'm tired, but in a good way. The reason I can't sleep is that my mind is buzzing with the ideas, opinions, conversations and discussions that I was privileged to be party to. My standard operating mode is healthy skepticism, and I of course carried a huge wad through the door of the Cumberland Hotel. However, while I applied that skepticism wherever I felt it warranted, I was soon overwhelmed by the passion displayed by everyone in the room for improving the lives of workers, and therefore organisations.

Some were making their living from this passion, and the variety of ways in which they did so was remarkable. We were given great advice from a nutritionist (what you eat affects your performance at work), and an exercise guru who warmed us up on Friday morning with a spot of gentle t'ai chi (same principle: better health means being better at work). At the very start of the conference the collective ice was shattered to smithereens by the amazing Kamala from Chirp who had us all partaking in a group sing session. This put us in a frame of mind in which we'd be responsive to sharing and communication.

We also heard speakers from two progressive enterprises: Mind Candy (the Moshi Monsters people) and The Chemistry Group who described ways in which they sought to put people first in their respective organisations. We were treated to a creativity seminar courtesy of The Ideas Centre, as well as a fun session about employee engagement delivered by the wonderful people from H and H agency. There was also a thought-provoking anarchist who urged us not only to make organisations #MoreLikePeople, but more like nice people. Finally a Microsoft employee and co-creator of the #responsiveorg thing spoke to us about the coming changes in organisational thinking.

On paper some - or much - of this might sound a bit wishy washy to the hard-nosed business types out there. You know, those of you who are insanely busy with the day-to-day. But if I was sure about the people thing prior to the conference, I left with an even greater conviction that things are changing rapidly. From start-ups to behemoths, the numbers of those who are recognising the need for adaptive and responsive organisations in this, the complexity century, are increasing in an encouraging way.

Here then, is an opportunity. If the hypothesis is correct and we are on the cusp of such a sea change, there will be the potential for new forms of work as well as new companies in this brave new tomorrow. I am old enough (i.e. ancient) to remember the similar discussions about what was then called 'datacomms' (networking and internetworking of computers) in the mid-1980s. The 1990s and 2000s were decades of enormous change driven by that technology. The late 2010s and 2020s might just be driven by people-centric, complexity understandings.

Anyway I was incredibly pleased to have the opportunity of contributing to the conversation at the conference, as well as presenting to a non-ITSM audience for a change. However, some of the big takeaways that are keeping me from sleep on the 12:45 Bournemouth to Manchester Cross-Country service are related to ITSM. We give lip service ad nauseum to people (process and technology). But we do absolutely nothing about it. We talk about people as if they are computers. Why no nutritionists? Why no health & fitness? Why are we afraid to talk about the human things; about the stuff that matters to people when the 'workface' finally comes off at the end of the day, but yet which influence the things that staff do between 9 and 5. There were no (other) ITSM people at #aapcon14. There are no real 'people zones' at the numerous ITSM conferences around the world - just glib and superficial content in this regard, and we think that this will do.

Is this why service desks (and other business facing IT functions) are often regarded as less-than-valuable and not always helpful in this era of continuous and exponential change? The paradigm of work is moving from the mechanistic and systemic to something more fluid, complex and human. Heck, even Microsoft are recognising this. Something needs to be done to jolt our sector into this realisation too. Soon.

Watch this space.

With very many thanks to @AndySwann who organised #aapcon14, and Liam Barrington-Bush who made it possible for me to be there. Also, a mini-shout out to all the other inspirational folks that I met including (but not limited to): Steve (recruiter), Rich (developer) and Michael (financier). 

See some of you ITSM folks at #aapcon15 next year?

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