10 Lessons from Angry Birds for Service Management

As an avid Angry Birds player who has lost too much time achieving a score that has me in the top 5% of all players in HD and RIO, I thought I should try and justify myself and put this pastime to good use. I wondered how lessons learnt from playing Angry Birds could be applied to Service Management.

It seems like I am not the only one that is trying to put lost time down to research. Last month, Daniel W. Rasmus wrote the following article in CIO – 10 Lessons from Angry Birds That Can Make You a Better CIO.

You can read it here.

Daniel has made many sound observations in his article so let me see if I can add to that from a Service Management perspective.

1. One size does not fit all

Every game of Angry Birds is different. It has a different landscape, different birds with different abilities, different scoring thresholds, different challenges and so on.

The same applies in the world of Service Management. So many times I hear a manager talk about what worked in a previous organisation and expect it to work exactly the same in the new one! It most likely won’t, as the new organisation is not identical to the previous one. It could be a different business with different customer base, it has different staff with different capabilities and skills, it has a different level of maturity and different business drivers etc.

So don’t try and use the same approach to Service Management blindly without assessing the landscape, the capabilities, the challenges, the appetite and of course the business drivers.

2. Adopt and adapt

In Angry Birds you have to adopt and adapt what is at your disposal. For instance if you are provided with a boomerang bird, do you have to use it to fly back on itself? No you don’t. You can sometimes use it to do more damage by flying forwards only. It all depends on the situation you are faced with.

The same applies with Service Management and the adoption of best practice as per ITIL. Take what is in the ITIL framework, and others out there, and then adopt and adapt to meet your needs and those of your organisation. Just because a book says something doesn’t mean you have to do it that way.

Also remember that you cannot “implement” a framework. Implement infers that there is one basic way of doing something like the implementation of a piece of technology. In Service Management, like Angry Birds, every situation is different with different resources available to you – so you adopt and adapt.

3. What is achievable?

In every Angry Birds game you have to assess the challenge at hand and the capabilities that you have been provided with. You may have wished for 10 Wrecking Ball Birds but were provided with 3 Basic Birds and one Bomber Bird.

So, you work out what can be achieved with what you have been provided with.

The same applies to Service Management. Work out what you can achieve with what is at your disposal. You may want to achieve utopia and CMMI Level 5 for all 26 ITIL processes but take a deep breath and come back to reality!

Don’t set yourself up for failure. This doesn’t mean you don’t set yourself and the team stretch targets, but make sure that they are achievable.

4. Focus

As already mentioned, each Angry Bird game provides a different landscape and challenges. An initial assessment of the situation is required to determine the best and most effective approach to undertake the task at hand i.e. smash all of the pigs. Then, you focus.

Success will not be achieved with a scattergun effect – just launching birds “aimlessly” hoping that they will hit a target.

In Service Management you have to have a clear target that you are trying to achieve and focus on achievement of that target. A concerted effort is needed with clear direction and a sense of purpose for all involved.

5. Quick Wins

Some pigs (targets) are easier to hit than others so why not go for those first?

Get some early runs on the board.

In Service Management look for the quick wins – the low hanging fruit – the easy-to-make improvements. Getting some early improvements in place with minimal effort and good for morale and for making a case for investment of time and money in the next round of improvements.

6. Investment

Rovio – the makers of Angry Birds – introduced a new special bird at the end of 2010. The Mighty Eagle is a special bird you can purchase in the event you can’t pass a level. After you activate it your slingshot is loaded with a can of sardines, which you then hurl towards the pigs mocking you on the other side. After which, you wait a couple seconds…then…BOOM! The Mighty Eagle drops out of the sky and smashes everything.

There will be things that you just cannot overcome or achieve in Service Management without some level of financial investment whether this is training, tools, people etc.

Be prepared to make a business case to secure investment for your Service Management initiatives. Ask others how they justified expenditure for their Service Management initiatives and leverage from that. See number 7.

7. Learn from others

Angry Birds has been downloaded 42 million times according to one statistic source. This

means a lot of people are playing the games. So you are not alone. You can learn from others when you are having problems getting through a certain level. There are walkthroughs galore on the internet to help.

There are many sources of help for those working in Service Management. Not only are there publications, websites, online forums etc. but also user groups such as itSMF which has presence at a international, national and local level. There are now over 50 chapters worldwide.

Many chapters have Special Interest Groups (SIGs) and Local Interest Groups (LIGS) as well as their national conferences where people can go to learn from others.

Find out how others got over some of the challenges in Service Management. The chances are they have overcome just the one that you are struggling with now.

8. Different birds for different tasks

There are a variety of birds in Angry Birds. There are basic birds, scattershot birds, kamikaze birds, bomb-dropping birds, boomerang birds and so on.

Each bird has different capabilities and is more suited to some tasks than others. For example, the kamikaze bird is great for breaking through layers of wood but not brick.

You have to learn about the capabilities of each bird and then allocate them to the best task within the game.

In Service Management you need to have the right people in the right roles to undertake the tasks at hand. Determine what the capabilities of your staff are and make sure that they are being effectively utilised. Get rid of the square pegs in the round holes, as they will hold you back from winning the game at hand.

9. Be patient

Achieving high scores and clearing levels in Angry Birds takes time. You have to try, try, then try again until eventually you succeed and can move on to the next level.

Don’t underestimate the time it will take to achieve your Service Management initiatives. Be prepared for incremental improvements over a period of time. Manage expectations in regards to the length of time some things will take.

The advantage of Angry Birds over Service Management is that you generally cannot move onto the next level in the game until you have successfully completed the previous level.

In Service Management, you can launch into the next initiative without having taken the time to properly finish off the previous one if you choose to do so. You then end up with lots of unfinished projects and initiatives with little or no benefit obtained.

Do one or two things at a time and make sure you finish them off before running off to do the next thing. Make sure changes are embedded into the organisation before introducing the next change.

10. Stop if it is going wrong

Because I have spent so much time playing this game, I instinctively know after the first bird has been launched, whether I am on the right track to beat the level.

If I am not, I don’t continue launching birds because I know it won’t have the desired outcome.

Instead, I stop, take stock and start the level again having learnt from the previous iteration.

In Service Management be prepared to acknowledge if things aren’t going as planned and stop. Determine what has gone wrong and fix it before moving on. Learn from the experience and make sure that it doesn’t happen again. Blindly continuing on a journey that has already gone astray will not ensure you reach the desired destination.

So, having written this I now feel justified in going back to play Angry Birds for a few more hours…..in the name of research of course!

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