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Are You Certain You Needed the Box in the First Place?

05/11/2011 by: The SunView Team

This tip at 99%, "The Power of Uncertainty" reminded me that, before you take time to "think outside the box", you should first ask if you were certain you needed a box, at all.

This tip has much relevance to the process of IT change management. Each of the change requests flowing through your IT change management software is a mini-project that might benefit from more uncertainty. If you are the leader of the Change Advisory Board (CAB) or just a member, it may pay to occasionally stop the discussion and ask the group the following questions inspired by this article:

  1. Has the objective of the request been defined well enough such that the group can, as the article suggests, "Seek Objectives That Guide But Don't Define"? Sure, by time the ticket is assigned for implementation, it should include the necessary guidance, but while deciding to move forward, were the original objectives considered rather than specific guidance from the request?
  2. If the objective has been the guiding factor, does the request properly empower the implementer within reason-is there an appropriate level of guidance with some amount of uncertainty? If the request is overly specific, the implementer may assume more thought went into the request than actually did. For example, I've seen changes lead to failures because instructions were copied-and-pasted from a similar request where it turned out that the instructions were not appropriate, and the implementer did not question the instructions as it appeared someone took time to think them through.

    On the flip side, is there general guidance in your organization on how far the implementer can deviate from the guidance documented in the ticket before the request needs to flow back through the CAB?

  3. Is your IT staff comfortable with a level of ambiguity that could permit individuals to think on their feet in the face of uncertainty, or are they so scared of failure they will only act if given very specific instructions? If so, this is likely a symptom of punishing failure rather than trying to understand and learn from it.

Clearly, most RFCs must be very explicitly spelled out and then executed exactly as specified, but given the mini-project nature of RFCs, perhaps by allowing for uncertainty, you might find creative solutions that require fewer, less costly changes that are more likely to meet the original objective.