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Vision Matters: Five ITSM Lessons to Consider

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A Trilogy - The One-Hour Service IT Service Management Improvement Plan

…remember:

if you don’t know where you want to get to, the direction you take doesn’t matter…

My last blog addressed the importance of allowing your vision to dictate the direction in which you’re going when Mi or any improvement program. We left off looking at mission/vision statements and the difference they make in the results you are out to cause. I also indicated I’d play a bit more with them and impact they have on companies’ results.

Following are some of the mission/vision statements I offered up last time:

  • “The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. ”
  • Delta Air Lines. We love to fly. And it shows.”
  • “Customer service has always been a priority at US Airways, and we are committed to making every flight count for our valued customers.”
  • “To be recognized as the best airline in the industry by our customers ,employees, and shareholders.” – Continental Airlines (now United Air Lines) 

Let’s start with the use of “customer service” by Southwest and US Airways. These two airlines offer a very different customer experience but they both have customer service as part of their vision. So why so different? The key here is that how you define customer service can vary widely from one person to another. Thus, the US Airways mission is up to the intpretation their employees place upon it. On some of their flights I’ve experienced having orders shouted at me, bags ripped out of my hands to gate check while the overheads remain empty and boarding processes where the PA was not used to announce the groups, leading to chaos in around the gate. Not customer service to me. However, if they define customer service as “making every flight count” it may be that safe arrival is sufficient.

Southwest also talks about customer service, but clearly defines what it looks like: warmth, friendliness and individual pride. When I fly with US Airways I definitely feel safe and get where I’m going, but when I fly Southwest, I am absolutely treated with warmth and friendliness by people with great individual pride and company spirit. The flight crews appear to love working for the airline.

Lesson #1: Strive for Clarity
What can you take away from this? Make certain to define what you mean with one or two qualifying words any time you use vague terminology. Being specific tells your associates and customers the true intent in the mission/vision statement.

Let’s look at the others, first Delta:  They love to fly and it shows. OK, they’re enjoying those flights but what’s in it for me? This mission/vision is irrelevant to me as a customer, just as it might be to their ground fleet and shareholders. It doesn’t much matter that they love to fly, and I’m not really certain how it would show.

Finally, looking at Continental’s statement,  I’m not sure what the criteria are to be the best airline and once again, I’m not sure there’s anything in it for me.

Lesson #2 : Stay Relevant
Create a mission/vision that is not only clear but also relevant. It should have relevance to all stakeholders, customers, employees and shareholders.  You need to provide your employees with something to achieve that is meaningful to your customers.

Finally, let’s look my favorite among the mission/vision statements: “to make people happy.” While it’s true that “happy” is not defined, it’s different than other terms because you are either happy or not and it forces the service provider to find out which. If you endeavor to make the customer, your employees and stakeholders happy, you are 100% responsible for your results and you recognize that the evaluation of your performance is with the other person (the customer, the employee or the stakeholder). If they are happy, you’ve succeeded, regardless of how happy is defined. Conversely, if they are unhappy, you can dig into why and see what can be done to turn that around. This is the ultimate in customer service, the goal of keeping at it until the customer says they are happy or at least satisfied with what you’ve provided.

Lesson #3: Considerations for Creating Your Mission/Vision
There are a few other considerations to think of creating your mission/vision:

First is alignment with business objectives. This is the key to IT gaining overall business alignment is having the business objectives drive your mission and vision. If your organization has already created a mission/vision, use it as the over-arching vision for your organization and create one that is complimentary.

Second is creating it collaboratively. It’s critical to get a cross-functional group together to brainstorm what the mission and vision for IT should be. You can word-smith it later, but creating the context or direction as a group will assist in gaining buy-in later.

It should be vetted with the team when created and with the business for alignment. It needs to resonate with people.

Inc.’s online magazine has a short article offering 5 tips on writing a mission statement. They recommend four aspects for a good mission statement: “Value, inspiration, plausibility, and specificity”.  Click here to find their five tips on-line at.

Kenesis Inc. also has a great blog on creation mission  statements that will offer far more than this short blog.

Lesson #4 Just Do It!
Having a vision for your organization is far more important than getting the words right. You can work on the words over time, but once you are able to get something on paper, post it all over the office, give it away on small business cards. Align your daily operations with it. Keep adjusting it until it begins to resonate with people. You’ll know it’s right when you start to see a shift in their attitudes andd the way they do their jobs. The message here is don’t get into analysis paralysis – just do it!

Lesson #5 Don’t Carve it in Stone
You can and should revisit your mission/vision periodically. As you achieve your vision and as your business’ direction shifts over time, you still need something to strive towards. Thus, you want to promote it, but don’t treat it like a forever vision, unless it is timeless in nature like “Make People Happy.”

As you create your mission/vision with people talk about how long they think it might last. Is this a one-year vision to get to a certain state? If so, review it in a year and think about the vision for the coming year. Knowing how long you want it to last will help you evaluate the results you get with this in mind.

In my next blog I’ll begin to tackle some industry trends and needs and begin looking at the real question this blog asks: As an ITSM industry, “are we there yet?”

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Phyllis Drucker is a business process consultant at Linium. ITIL expert certified with over 20 years' experience in the disciplines and frameworks of IT Service Management as both a practitioner and consultant, she has also served the itSMF since 2004 in a variety of capacities including volunteer, board member and operations director of the US Chapter. She is a frequent contributor of knowledge to the ITSM profession, through numerous presentations, whitepapers and articles. Since 1997, her goal has been to advance the profession of ITSM leaders and practitioners worldwide by providing insight from her experiences on a wide variety of Service Management topics.