Last week sadly saw the death of Dr. Stephen Covey, celebrated author and founder of the global consulting and training organization FranklinCovey. I was introduced to his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People in a business class when it was initially published back in 1989. The book has since gone on to become one of the best-selling and influential self help books of all time.
Listening to what your end user customers actually need will enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty by driving more positive relationships.
If you’ve never heard about this book, 7 Habits is a guide to how an individual can improve both themselves and the environment around them. While the book is focused on the individual, as the IT world (IT service desks, customer service desks, development, etc.) shifts attention more toward a people orientated approach, I think these points are also relevant for IT organizations to embrace. Lots of these points may seem quite obvious, but it’s very easy to forget them as we go about our daily work. Dr. Covey introduces the concept of the “paradigm shift,” a change in perception or a re-framing of how the world operates taking you through how to be more proactive, and less reactive. Does that sound familiar to those of you in the IT world?
See what you think:
Habit 1: Be Proactive. Control your environment. Don’t be reactive to outside forces. Take responsibility, make choices and accept the consequences so that you are proactive and not reactive. If things go wrong, look at your own action and how we can improve in the future.
Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind. Determine your end goals so that you know what you are working toward. This will enable you to concentrate on relevant activities and avoid distractions. For the IT world, think of the outcomes you or your end user customers are trying to achieve? That will help IT teams make more effective decisions about what change to implement, what software is most appropriate or how much storage capacity is really required, and so on.
Habit 3: Put First Things First. Organize and prioritize activities towards the goals you outlined in Habit 2 based on importance rather than urgency and then execute. For example, there is a tendency in the IT world to be metric mad without thinking about what is actually needed to reach a final outcome. By knowing the desired outcome, you can narrow down the relevant metrics that you actually need to report on.
Habit 4: Think Win-Win. Achievement is dependent on a co-operative approach with others so aim for solutions that are mutually beneficial. When you think win-win, you are better able to resolve conflict. It is impossible for an IT organization to achieve greatness without co-operation between teams – development, project management, security, data centers the service desk, so communicate and negotiate for example when a change is going to take place. In that way as Dr. Covey wrote, “All parties feel good about the decision and feel committed to the action plan.”
Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood. Listen to other people in order to create a more respectful environment and better solve problems. This is one that IT and particularly the service desk often struggles with as it’s all about effective communication. Listening to what your end user customers actually need (through regular contact, satisfaction surveys as well as reporting metrics) and as Covey describes it “diagnosing before you prescribe” will enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty by driving more positive relationships.
Habit 6: Synergize. Use teamwork to achieve goals that could not be achieved by one person working alone. To get the best performance out of the team encourage meaningful contributions and end goals. Be creative negotiators that build strong relationships through co-operation and trust with others. Think about ways of how you can use the combined strengths of an IT team. This may not for example necessarily be about everyone working together on one project but this could manifest in other ways. For example, the introduction of a knowledge base where staff can share their insights, expertise or resolutions for use within a team will only make that team stronger and faster in their response to issues and challenges than they would be as individuals. Similar integration of tools such as systems management with service desk will enable teams to have clear visibility for more accurate decision making.
Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw. This one is about self-renewal. To be most effective with the 7 habits long-term, it’s necessary to balance and renew your resources, energy and health. Covey talks about the four parts; the spiritual, the mental, the physical and the social/emotional which should all need feeding. Keeping IT staff happy, motivated and engaged so that they don’t leave further down the line is a key concern particularly on the service desk side of things. Encouraging staff and enabling them to develop should be a key focus whether that is through reward structures, stimulating work environments, career development or use of social IT to encourage positive social interactions. Sometimes everyone is working so hard, it’s easy to forget this one but look at the many studies that show satisfied employees lead to satisfied customers.
Dr. Covey believed that good leaders and communicators never accepted the status quo, are looking to constantly improve and challenge themselves and never say “We are good enough” I hope that you can see the parallels to what a good IT Service Desk, CIO office, PMO office or the IT organization as a whole should be striving for.