Q&A With Sharron Spratt!

Sharron Spratt Photo





Sharron Spratt is a specialist in transitioning technical professionals into great managers and leaders and a bestselling author to boot. We talked to her about leadership and motorbikes!

 You are an avid motorbike rider and have translated that enthusiasm into your executive training program – On Yer Bike. Tell us a bit more how the principles of riding can apply to lessons in leadership and change management.

One of the differences between riding a bike and driving a car (or being a passenger in a train) is that you have to have total focus on the road, other traffic and your own riding at all times. This gives many motorcyclists a different way of ‘being’ and thinking which can transfer very easily into leading others, particularly through a period of change. Successful leaders share many of the same attributes and modes of thinking as good motorbike riders:

  1. Focus and total engagement, ability to pay attention to the most important information and not get bogged down in minutiae
  2. Comfort with fellow riders having different styles and approaches because they know it’s more important to get to the goal than what method you use
  3. Greater ease with risk and ability to have a clear line of sight
  4. Awareness that blind spots can be your undoing
  5. Getting out of the office. Riding pares everything down to the bone – and its so engrossing that other worries don’t get a look in.

There are so many principles that transfer across and we are still discovering them.

 Your book ‘LEAD I.T. Moving from technical leader to people leader – FAST’ has resonated with a large audience. If you could condense one piece of advice from your book that every great leader should know, what would it be?

Oh wow – only one piece… if I can have two they would be:

  1. Be a constant learner and open to developing your skills based on feedback from all sources. E.g. seeing every ride as an opportunity to get better by responding to the feedback you get from the bike, the road, other riders and your own responses
  2. Invest time in developing your self awareness so that your ego does not limit your potential. E.g. the best riders are more than happy to admit when they make mistakes both to themselves and others. Excuses are not in their vocabulary.

 Transitioning technical professionals into great managers and leaders is your forte. In your experience have you found that anyone can be an excellent leader with the right guidance, or does it take a certain type of personality?

In my experience everyone can be a competent leader if they are willing to put in the same effort to learn as they did with their technical expertise. What makes a great leader is not so much a personality as a number of attributes – many of which can be learned (thank goodness). It is quite a long list but in my view the most important are:

  1. A balance of intellect, and curiosity and care for people
  2. A strong drive for high performance from themselves and their people
  3. Ability to communicate (both speak and listen)- constantly about performance
  4. Very high levels of trust – from and in their team
  5. Mindfulness- aware of what is going on around them, their impact on others
  6. Flexibility. Part of this is being able to put ego aside and be flexible to achieve the objective.

 Service Management 2015’s theme of Building Customer Value is something you are very knowledgeable about, please explain why you think it’s so important.

For me this is a no-brainer if you are in business these days. Your people are the deciding factor in almost any business. Your competitors are probably offering the same products or services as you – but they don’t have your people delivering it – there is gold right there for the companies that are willing to invest in this long term.

Secondly, customers have access to so much information now, are so much more knowledgeable about what is available and more than willing to tell the world (quite literally through social media) about their experience with your business. You have no choice but to strive for the highest standard and that is delivered by people.

Even though we all like to think of ourselves as pleasant, helpful members of a team it becomes very challenging to maintain high quality service if we are constantly bombarded with unhappy customers, frustrated by clunky systems or constantly restricted by unfair policy decisions and working in a culture that pays lip service to great customer experiences but is unwilling to value the people who deliver it.

The challenge of course is in providing the right systems and culture that make it easy for our people to deliver and give them the autonomy to use their brains to make on the spot decisions on your company’s behalf. Not easy when the very nature of our brain’s hardwiring works against us at times.


Sharron Spratt is leading a workshop with Korrine Jones on ‘Leading and Building Customer Value without Selling Your Soul!’ at Service Management 2015.


By |May 14th, 2015|blog, ITSM, Leadership, QandA, Service Management 2015, Workshop|

Q&A with Sandy Mamoli!

Sandy Mamoli Photo






From working with Sony Ericsson’s global enterprise website in Amsterdam and Copenhagen to being one of NZ’s leading Agile coaches and Chair of Agile Welly , Sandy Mamoli brings her practical European flair and passionate advocacy of all things Agile to NZ businesses. She’s a former Olympian, a geek, a gadget junkie and emerging triathlete. Sandy is one of the owners and co-founders of Nomad8.

You know your way around a Kanban board. How would you explain the concept to a beginner?

Kanban is a way of managing your list of things to do. In a clear and visual way you can see what’s important and urgent, as well as what you’ve achieved and what’s coming up. It’s tactile – moving sticky notes from one column to the next is immensely satisfying. And it’s universal – from school kids managing their homework schedule to developers planning their tasks and stories, it works.

Has your use of Kanban changed the way you approach things outside of the workplace? If so how?

I admit that I use my Kanbanfor1 board for almost everything now. It gives me a really clear sense of what’s on my plate both in and out of work. I feel a lot more in control of my ‘things to do’ which actually gives me more freedom to enjoy my non-busy time. My partner and I even share a board when we’re planning together – like a holiday, or moving house.

If you could express the essence of Kanban in one word, what would it be and why?

One word – that’s hard! I want to say ‘simplicity’ but there’s also ‘productivity’ and a certain amount of ‘zen’.

The best word though may well be ‘flow’.
Tasks and work and projects flow through your life. Kanban helps to manage that flow. The board lets you visualise the flow.

You’re a former Olympian and no stranger to achievement! Tell us a bit about the qualities one needs to think like an Olympian in their work.

Focus, ambition, collaboration. An Olympic athlete is no stranger to these things. Hours and weeks and months and years of hard, consistent training. Laser sharp focus on the task at hand. A shared team goal and purpose. Big dreams and the courage to follow through. There is no time for slackers, but there is much learning from failure. I think I’m a lot less intense now than in those days, but I still work hard and love a good massage!


Sandy will be leading a workshop on Kanbanfor1 at Service Management 2015.

By |May 5th, 2015|blog, ITSM, Kanban, QandA, Service Management 2015, Workshop|

Gamification – What is in for you as an ITSM expert playing Apollo13?

Suresh GP Photo







By guest blogger Suresh GP

This blog stems from my experience participating at the Apollo 13 Business simulation played in Delhi recently.

We had around 8 delegates who were specialized in delivering ITSM engagements internally or externally to their clients. One of the key differences of the workshop was that we had 8 people from 6 different companies who were meeting and interacting for the first time.

From a background and experience perspective, delegates had around 10+ years of experience on average and belonged to some leading end user organizations/IT companies in India & abroad. While the participants voiced several key learnings over the 4 rounds as mentioned below, I had some great eye openers with this event and that is the beauty of running such simulations. Every time, the context, reflection and outcomes are totally different.

My personal takeaways from the whole exercise were as follows

a) Forming, Norming, Storming and Performing exercise team building can be done easily when you have the new joiners running through this simulation as part of the New- Hire Orientation. They have fun, learn a lot and develop personal bonds quickly before they are deployed to projects

b) While trainings like ITIL V3 Foundation need an investment of 2 days worth of time and effort, these simulations bring about significant learning aspects to build competencies like knowledge, behaviors, skills and attitude

c) One of the ITIL V3 Expert trainers mentioned that this simulation was an eye opener and a great experience of learning by doing. By this way he believed that the retention of knowledge would be far longer for students

d) It would be a great opportunity to play a simulation with the project stakeholders before kicking off the ITSM project. There is a whole lot of things that we unlearn and learn just by doing

e) Finally, lots of people have difficulty in articulating how to drive CSI in their organizations. With rounds 1 to 4, there are action items that get reflected by participants that allow us to see definite improvements to carry those skills into the workplace. This could aid them for better efficiency and effectiveness in their journey to service excellence.

Suresh GP is conducting a workshop on ‘Gamification: Apollo 13 – Failure is not an Option!

By |May 5th, 2015|blog, Gamification, ITSM, QandA, Service Management 2015, Workshop|

Q&A with Rob England!

Rob England Photo Rob England is a self-employed IT commentator and consultant. Internationally, he is best known for his blog The IT Skeptic and half a dozen books on IT. Rob was the NZ IT Service Management Champion for 2010, and his blog was voted the best “IT consultant and analyst” blog in the UK’s Computer Weekly IT Blog Awards for 2010. He is an acknowledged contributor to ITIL (2011 Service Strategy book).

You’re known as the IT Skeptic. How might your brand of skepticism be beneficial when approaching service management?

The IT sector is prone to fads. We are an ill-disciplined rabble who run after anything shiny and noisy that comes by. There is a deficiency of data supporting many ideas, and an absence of objectivity, especially amongst the vendors and analysts who drum up whole new products. CMDB is a case in point. Somebody has to provide an antidote to the Kool Aid. I try to do that with a dose of common sense and realism.

The hashtag you started on twitter, #SMtruths has encouraged some great responses – what are some of your favourites and why?

The #SMTruths idea came to me when i looked at my burger (I don’t often eat fast food) and realised it bore no resemblance to the shiny picture on the menu I ordered from. So I started tweeting reflections on the profound fundamentals of service management, the enduring truths that underlie all the more complex ideas we lay on top.

I want the thread to be thoughtful, lateral, insightful, startling, and amusing. And of course: its a hashtag thread, so folk can join in. I compile them here.
Some of my favourites are:

It takes as long as it takes to put the fire out.
MTTR as a service level target is silly.

The world refuses to be defined, repeatable, managed and measured.
We cannot treat everything in IT as if it were a manufacturing process. Manufacturing concepts have been way over-used. (See also MTTR).

In a dynamically changing world, no process or technology is as flexible as humans.
We are way too quick to jump to technology. Often people are better. (See also CMDB)

IT is 1% innovation.
IT people are fascinated by novelty and transformation. Most of the time we ought to be getting on with our jobs.

A service is not an object or technology. It is an action, activity, people. Use verbs to describe services.
Self-explanatory that one.

Your upcoming workshop is titled ‘Dead Cat Syndrome.’ Outside of sounding like a wave of bad luck for the veterinarian community – what does this concept mean for those in service management and what is your prescribed cure for it?

In many organisations, putting a new project into production is akin to lobbing a dead cat over a wall. No operating model, little or no operational procedures developed, minimal last minute training for the service desk and operations. Supplier contracts don’t align with service commitments. There are no service commitments – no SLA exists. The project disbands the moment the system goes live. If you are lucky someone is still around to answer questions.
IT Operations needs to put controls in place to prevent this. Projects benefit from these controls by having a better definition of the end goal and a better end product. You can find out more here.

Catch Rob England’s workshops on both ‘Dead Cat Syndrome’  and ‘BSM: Basic Service Management’ at at Service Management 2015.

By |April 24th, 2015|blog, ITSM, QandA, Service Management 2015, SMTruths, Workshop|