Employee Well-being Permeates Everything We Do in Technology

Employee Well-being and ITSM

This article is eventually about employee well-being… My favorite blog site for technology practices with a strong focus on service management is ITSM.tools (editor note: thanks Daniel!). As seen from the list below, they cover it all and accept well-written and non-selling articles exploring various IT service management (ITSM) topics:

  • XLAs                                                                             
  • Organizational change management
  • Leadership in IT                                                        
  • Sustainability in IT
  • Enterprise service management                        
  • Digital workflows (process, not tool-related)
  • Employee experience                                                             
  • Change management/enablement
  • Service financial management                           
  • Capacity and performance management
  • Employee well-being                                                                  
  • Preparing for 2023 and beyond
  • Service portfolio management                           
  • Value stream management
  • Process improvement                                                            
  • IT Strategy
  • Continual improvement                                        
  • Problem management

(You can help them too, please see the editorial guidelines here.)

Here Daniel Breston recounts some of his well-being experiences throughout his long IT career and offers helpful tips to others. #wellbeing #mentalhealth #ITSM Share on X

Recently ITSM.tools requested authors to submit their tips and thoughts in their chosen area. This article explores my feelings when I reviewed the request because it reminded me of my career and the pressures spurred by the practices below. Once you’ve read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts on my tips and your experiences.

Think about it – you do most of these practices every single day

Think about it – each practice affects your well-being and those of your teams, users, peers, and vendors! If you are a technology manager (CIO down), consider the first hour of your day: You arrive, check for current issues, jump in and help, check email, attend your daily scrum that’s supposed to last 5 minutes but typically extends to 30, and the boss still wants that business case with complete financial requirements and milestones for the program announced last week. Sound familiar? Are your stress levels rising? Look at the topic list above to see how many you performed in your first hour. I count ten!

You still need to consider how you will improve the work accomplished throughout the organization. You know, getting that tech stuff you keep mentioning to make a difference and helping do things better, faster, and safer while beating your competitors and not causing any outages, legal nonsense, or reputational risk (i.e. an unwanted appearance on the front page of a news website or newspaper).

I had a wall of ideas, and we tried them in our Obeya (I will explain later).

Every #ITSM practice practice affects your well-being and those of your teams, users, peers, and vendors. You need to stop and think about it, says Daniel Breston. #wellbeing Share on X

But then unplanned work happens

Oh wait, the CEO just told the CFO that the CMO wants a new product line that will launch in three months. Every department will be affected! Stop what you are doing and create an approach that guarantees this goes live on time and within the budget the CMO agreed with the CFO. Didn’t talk to you before? Sorry, but this needs to be done! No capacity or budget, well, look at what we can delay.

The CEO also reminds you to review why there are so many complaints about the products recently released. The CEO appreciates they went live in a rush, but you have had a month to get it right! Are you still comparing the topic list above to your day? Are stress levels rising? Are teams depressed? Are vendors or peers waiting on their requests angry?

The many topic items in the list, in fact, ITSM in general, are not a group of disparate practices. They are just the way you work broken down into separate parts such that you can see how to use them in your role and the roles of others. If these practices are not aligned with the organization’s and each employee’s purpose, employee well-being will be impacted. Employee well-being is the glue that holds these practices together. You need to know when the experiences of working in technology are offering good, bad, or great sensations. You need to find a way to be alerted when one of your team needs help or believes that you do. I have been a Batman fan for six decades, and unfortunately, I wore a hero complex to work every day. It took a brave employee to tell me I was the problem before I appreciated that truth. How do you maintain balance in this digital and artificial intelligence (AI) age among the fast changes outside your control?

'If your #ITSM practices are not aligned with the organization’s & each employee’s purpose, well-being will be impacted. Well-being is the glue that holds these practices together.' – Daniel Breston #wellbeing Share on X

Want to learn more about the practices above?

Read an article or blog, take a course, or call a consultant – but do they mention employee well-being?

I have started asking people that write, speak, teach, or consult this simple question: how do you help your client or staff stay safe? I did not always correspond, speak, teach, or consult with safety and employee well-being in mind. After an employee encounter, I had to unlearn my old-school management habits and introduce new attitudes and behaviors. It was not easy! Every change, every issue, every meeting needed to explore some, if not all, of these questions:

  • Why are we doing this?
  • What will impact me, my users, and my team?
  • What metrics will management use to measure success and value?
  • What metrics will we use to measure success and value?
  • Do these metrics align and help the flow of work?
  • What will we do if we feel we are not working safely or are introducing a change that might cause reputational or risk damage?

Whether you have an in-house team or rely on a managed service partner (MSP), you must talk and visualize changes. Lean has a concept called Obeya to create, examine, and introduce the tasks to provide an experience or perform an activity. An analogy is using clay to build a full-size car model and then adding or removing a bit here or there to derive your new model. Obeya teaches individuals how to interact with what they do to create, use, or change a service or product. You can learn about Obeya here, and I now understand why DevOps, Agile, and ITSM reference Lean within their concepts. Lean has a lot to offer!

Let’s replay the story (and move int employee well-being)

You get to work. You begin your day by asking your AI assistant to highlight issues and their status. No AI, your team then, which is even better! As a manager, you want to know if there are any obstacles you need to remove. Otherwise, you walk the halls to learn how technology is helping or hindering staff. Not just in your area but everywhere. Lean names this Gemba, where the goal is to observe issues or new good practices. My Lean sensei challenged me to walk 70% of my day to discover what my reports were not providing (my reports said green, but users said red).

Have you read The Phoenix Project? Remember when the interim CIO and Security Manager arranged 15-minute sessions with each peer and asked just two questions: What are your goals for the next quarter, and What are your obstacles? They then reviewed the changes and projects in IT and refocused on helping to answer those questions. The result was that peers loved these 15-minute sessions as they began to receive the value they had dreamed of from IT. Reread the book!

Lean (ITSM, DevOps, Agile) says that the best way to learn the truth is in your everyday work environment or what IT calls “production.” It sounds strange, but consider how many of your current issues you could avoid or resolve more quickly if you tested and deployed in a live-like environment. For the first 40 years of my career, it cost a fortune to replicate production environments. Cloud solved that dilemma, and if you adopt Lean (DevOps, ITSM, Agile) practices, you make one change at a time, assessing the impact and fixing it before going live. It sounds hard to believe, but we introduce changes faster and safer in incremental steps.

Employee well-being is the glue

Tip for employee well-being: Go down the topic list and ask, “What will it take for my team, organization, and I to perform this practice safely and in conjunction with everything else we do?”

Let’s pick the first one – XLAs. What is it about envisioning a level of experience that allows you to ensure that your technology service consumer feels satisfied and safe? The only way to obtain this vision is to test that service in a production-like environment. Benefitting from cloud capabilities allows you to replicate your production environment and experiment with the impact of fixes and improvements. In fact, the cloud can even help you go live by stopping the practice of the big bang (do it all) implementation and instead modifying your service with the knowledge that you can reverse the alteration if necessary. Further, using the concepts of XLAs, you can demonstrate that your services are helping the organization meet its key indicators and outcomes.

Obeya will let you generate employee well-being because you can practice it safely and in an environment that emulates reality. Most urgently, you can look at the above list with new eyes, which your team will respect because you will feel better prepared as you use each item daily. If you are not, you can practice readiness or create the framework for employee well-being at your organization. Take advantage of technology like Cloud and AI to help you design, develop, collaborate, deploy, and improve products. But always ensure that what you do encourages the well-being of your organization, customers, and yourself.

Further Employee Well-being Reading

If you enjoyed this article on employee well-being, then here are some additional employee well-being articles you may find of interest:

Daniel Breston
Daniel Breston
IT Management Advisor at Independent

Daniel Breston is a 50+ year veteran of IT, ex-CIO and principle consultant, multiple framework trainer, blogger, and speaker. Daniel is on the board of itSMF UK and is a Fellow of the British Computer Society. Daniel may be retired, but he will help an organization if requested. Not full-time, but hey!

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