Management tip: You have to make mistakes

Management tip: You have to make mistakes

Think carefully for a moment and ask yourself, when was the last time you made a mistake? Be honest with yourself and think hard about this.  

If you can’t remember the last time you made a mistake, then you have essentially stopped learning and you are playing things too safe.  Maybe that’s because you are in an environment where any mistake, however, small would be seen as a failure and would put your job at immediate risk. If that’s the case then, to be honest, I don’t blame you. If that is the case you should really ask yourself if you want to be subjecting yourself to such a negative and toxic environment.

As a manager, you need to carefully think through how you respond to one of your team making a mistake. Some mistakes can be horrible in the moment and may cost your company thousands of pounds to recover from. When someone makes a mistake, what do you do? Fire the person on the spot? Ideally no, think of it as expensive training. Would you fire someone who has just been on an expensive training course?

I’ve seen teams bond and build strength from mistakes, sometimes the recovery from a mistake can really bring people together.

In reality, most mistakes are fine so long as you review them in an open and honest way afterwards and capture the learning for the individuals involved and the company. Doing this well is a sign of a mature and high performing organisation.

If the same mistake is being made, time and time again then either the review and learning process is failing or there is something else happening with the individuals concerned which will need deeper review. As a manager however if the same mistake keeps happening are you sure you have captured and applied the learning correctly and fully? 

These days if you don’t make a few mistakes and find your edge and push your boundaries on a regular basis you are damaging your career development and not serving your business and customers longer-term best interests.  

Think for a moment about babies and young children, they learn to walk by lifting themselves up, taking a few steps, getting their balance wrong and learning from this. They fall over, they hurt themselves and pick themselves up and they learn to walk, then they learn to run and for some, they go on to run marathons and win races.  

The skill is knowing when to take a little risk in a safe environment and when it is necessary to absolutely get something right the first time.  I recently heard one business coach say you should be making a mistake a third of the time. I’m not sure I’d ever recommended going that far as you may end up burning too much credibility and it’s still important to be seen as a ‘safe pair of hands’, you’ll have to find a balance that’s right for you.

If you really struggle to think of the last time you made a mistake, it’s safe to say you need to relax, find your edge and learn something new. 


Management tip for November 4th 2019

Here’s a saying which has been proven to be correct time and time again.

Whether you think you can or you think you can’t you are probably right.

This is the importance of confidence and self belief. Just be careful not to become complacent.

ITIL (IT Infrastructure Library) Service Management Notes – Part 1

ITIL Service Management defines a number of terms, this primer is a quick reference guide.  You should find this useful when revising for your ITIL Foundation Exam.

Outcome: The output from executing a process that delivers a SERVICE

Service: A way of delivering value to a customer by enabling an Outcome the customer wants to achieve without incurring the overhead of owning the whole process or risks of delivering it.

IT Service: Delivered by an IT Service Provider. It is a combination of technology, people and processes.

There are 3 types of Service:

  1. An internal customer facing service: IT Service provided to another part of the same company.
  2. An external customer facing service: IT Service provided directly to an external customer, for example a music download service.
  3. A supporting service: A service which is not directly used by the business or an external customer but which is required by the IT Service provider to deliver other services, for example backup and recovery.

These service types can be further sub-defined as:

  1. Core Services: These are the (top level) services that would be recognised by the customer as the service they are paying for.
  2. Enabling Services: These are services needed to deliver Core Services. They may be visible to customers but are not sold to them in their own right.
  3. Enhancing Services: Think of these as “Core Services Plus”. They are not essential to delivering the Core Service but are extras used to differentiate the service from its competitors

Service Package: A bundle of two or more services (could be core, enabling or enhancing) designed to meet a specific type of customer requirement or to underpin a specific business outcome.

Service Value: Customers cannot benefit from something that is fit for purpose but not fit for use and vice versa. What’s the point of having a fantastic helpline if its always engaged when you phone it. Service Value therefore breaks down into Utility and Warrenty.

  1. Utility – What the service gives the customer – it’s fitness for purpose. Think of this as the functionality provided by a product or service to meet a particular need. In my example a helpline that will be able to answer any technical question.
  2. Warranty – How it is delivered – it’s fitness for use, eg sufficient capacity, availability, security etc. This is the assurance that the product or service will meet its agreed requirements. This may be expressed formally in an SLA. In my example the helpline will be open 24 hours a day and the call will be answered within 30 seconds.

Strategies for managing risk out of your projects

One of the roles of the Project Manager is to identify risks to the project and create a Risk Register.  Once the risks have been identified their responsibility is then to work on strategies for managing those risks downwards or out of their project.  Below I present 5 key risk management strategies.  

  1. Prevention: by termination of the risk: by doing things differently and thus removing the risk, where it is feasible to do so. Countermeasures are put in place that either stop the threat or problem from occurring or prevent it having any impact on the project or business.  For example if you need to relocate a network server you may identify that there is a high risk of disk failure or some other form of hardware failure while the server is in transit.  You may decide to prevent this risk by avoiding the move entirely – this could be done by taking a backup on the existing server and restoring it onto a brand new server at the new location. A process that can be easily rehearsed and perfected ahead of the final move.
  2. Reduction: Treat the risk – take action to control it in some way whether the actions either reduce the likelihood of the risk developing or limit the impact on the project to acceptable levels. To continue the above example, when relocating many servers to a new office you could reduce the risk by moving the servers one at a time.
  3. Transference: This is a specialist form of risk reduction where the management of a risk is passed to a third party via, for instance, an insurance policy or penalty clause, such that the impact of the risk is no longer an issue for the health of the project. Not a lll risks can be transferred in this way. Continuing the above example again, when moving servers you might decide that contracting the work out to a firm who specialise in this type of work would be a good idea.  This would transfer the risk to a specialist but also likely reduce the risk by using people who carry out this type of work all the time and who therefore know the potential problems that may occur and ways of avoiding them.
  4. Acceptance: Tolerate the risk – perhaps because nothing can be done at a reasonable cost to mitigate it or the likelihood and impact of the risk occurring are at an acceptable level.  Bad Weather is a good example of a risk you may decide to accept.  For example some outside events can be ruined by bad weather.  While it may be possible to take out insurance against this the cost of doing so may be too high to be considered worth while.
  5. Contingency: These are actions planned and organised to come into force as and when the risk occurs. For example if it rains the concert will be held in the village hall instead of on the green.

If you have alternative ways of managing risks in projects then I’d love to hear from you.  In a future blog I’ll look at the best way to present a risk register and communicate how you are managing risks in your project.