Behaviour and Relationships in Professional Service Management

This is a guest post, contributed by Mark Smalley, IT Paradigmologist, ASL/BiSL Foundation

If you’ve been attending IT service management (ITSM) conferences for five, ten, or more years, you’ll have noticed a shift in focus. While in the ‘good old days’ it was mostly about process, now that we’ve got this important aspect more or less under control, we’re realising that people are often the weakest link in the people-process-product-partner chain. This explains an increase in interest in topics such as Business Relationship Management (BRM) and competence frameworks like the Professional Service Management Framework (PSMF). We understand the value of behaviour and relationships, and realise that it’s more a question of having the right skills and attitudes than well-defined processes.

Effective Business-IT Relationships

I have responded to this shift by developing a workshop around desired behaviour in the context of effective business-IT relationships. The concept is simple. The participants are divided into two ‘factions’: business and IT. The business group is tasked with identifying the kind of behaviour that they’d like to see from their IT colleagues. And vice versa, the IT group identifies desired behaviour from their business partners. I’ve done this workshop in more than ten countries on three continents and the results are pretty consistent across countries and cultures. The business not only wants IT to be quicker, but also more reliable, business-savvy, and empathetic. IT wants the business to be clear about what they want and to set priorities and to understand and accept risks. These are the findings in a nutshell.

The next step in the workshop, once desired behaviour has been identified, is to think about what actually drives behaviour. While behaviour can be influenced to a degree by extrinsic carrots and sticks such as bonusses and appraisals, much boils down to less visible stuff below water level. To quote a workshop participant, “Observable human behaviour is just the tip of the iceberg. Below the surface is the complex yet fascinating world of emotions, attitudes, and values that influence how we work, cooperate and react.” These ‘soft’ topics are often tricky for people with a technical bent. They can’t be expressed in zeros and ones. Or boxes and arrows. They’re messy.

In a workshop that I conduct together with Simone Jo Moore, who’s done a lot of work in this area, I’ve observed that it helps to do some simple exercises with values and emotions. For instance, choosing a core value from a set of cards with more than 50 values. This makes people aware of the values that are very close to what makes them them. Another exercise gives them a vocabulary with which they can better understand, recognise, and express emotions. We’ll also talk about persuasion, referencing Cialdini’s work in this area.

At the itSMF UK Conference (ITSM17)

This is the core of the workshop that I’ll be conducting on the first day of the itSMF UK conference this year. In 90 minutes we’ll establish desired business-IT behaviour and will explore the factors such as values and emotions that are key drivers of behaviour. In terms of itSMF UK’s Professional Service Management Framework, these relate to communication skills, empathy and getting on with different personalities, Influencing and persuading, collaboration, relationship handling / development, motivation and team building, coaching and performance management, and organisational change/development. Hopefully this workshop will help the participants influence behaviour in themselves and in others, leading to improved relationships and results.

Of course I’d love to see you in the workshop but if not, please consider the kind of behaviour that you’d like to see not only between business and IT but between any parties that need to collaborate better. Then have a think about the factors that drive behaviour, in particular values, beliefs, and emotions and how you could go about influencing these. Karen Ferris has made a good contribution to this field – you’ll find her white paper Balanced Diversity worth a read.

ITSM marketing, media and publishing at | Website

Communications, content publishing and event management professional and editor/author with more than 25 years' experience of IT-focused companies and not-for-profit/membership organisations.  Editor of ServiceTalk Magazine since 2009 and co-editor of numerous service management publications, including the ITIL Foundation Handbook and A Dictionary of ITSM.

Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top