10 More Lessons From Angry Birds for Service Management

What is it with ITSM professionals and Angry Birds?

One of the most popular ITSM articles I have written was back in April 2011 and was entitled “10 Lessons From Angry Birds for Service Management”. What was meant to be (and still is) a little tongue in cheek look at Service Management certainly caught the attention of many and I have been repeatedly asked if there was to be a follow-up! Well, there was not an intention to do so, but due to popular demand – here is the second (and I promise –the final) instalment.

10 More Lessons From Angry Birds for Service Management.

1. New Birds on the Block. Just when you think you have mastered the unique capabilities of each bird to beat each level of the game, a new game is introduced along with new birds. In Angry Birds Rio, along came the introduction of the Blue Parrot and the Boomerang Bird. Both of these have very different skills to those of other birds and take a lot of practice in order to effectively use their unique capabilities. As a seasoned Angry Birds player, happy in my ability to launch and control birds to maximum effect, the last thing I wanted were new birds to take their place. I wanted to stick with what I knew best. However, the unique capabilities of these new birds would soon become an asset to my game plan. It just took some time. In ITSM we often have teams made up of people who know each other well and work well together. For many varied reasons, new people can get introduced into the team. They may not fit the mould of the existing team members but that does not mean that they do not fit the team. They bring new skills, capabilities and knowledge to the team. The key is to take the time to assimilate them into the team and facilitate the sharing of knowledge and experience across all team members. Build on the strengths of all of the individuals and create a stronger team as a result. Be prepared to allocate time to this task. Don’t just ignore the new folks because they are different. Their difference could be your winning advantage.

2. Eagle Feathers. Like many players having scored 3 stars on each level, I was happy in the knowledge that I had done everything necessary to keep ahead of the game. Then one day, I log into Angry Birds to find below each game episode the picture of a feather and the numbers 0/48! What could they mean 0 out of 48? Well just like in the world of ITSM, the game can change. Rovio had introduced a new game within the game that meant that every level of every game had to be revisited and replayed to earn an eagle feather. A new challenge had been set. In ITSM we cannot rest on our laurels and assume that our past successes will remain as such in the future. The organisation changes, the business imperatives change, external factors bring change and so on, meaning that nothing ever stands still. Therefore we need to be vigilant and keep looking back to check that what we had put in place is still relevant and having the expected benefits. Where this is not the case, and the game has changed, we need to take action to keep ahead of the game. This may mean readdressing some of our process improvement initiatives, changing the way in which we execute our processes, or putting in place new metrics and measurements to reflect the new world in which we find ourselves.

3. Blatant Promotion. The success of the Rovio franchise has resulted in more than just games. Angry Birds merchandise includes t-shirts, socks, plush toys, footwear, bags, ties and much more. There is even an Angry Birds cookbook and talk of a TV series! Your ITSM success may not have the financial return of Angry Birds but you should still take time to promote it. Think about how you can let people know of your ITSM initiatives and the successes that you have had. Identify the communication channels at your disposal and leverage them. Use internal channels such as bulletin boards, newsletters, online collaboration tools, staff meetings etc. Use external channels such as industry seminars and conferences, magazines and newsletters to discuss your initiatives, challenges and success stories. One of the biggest mistakes ITSM professionals make is to not market ITSM to the wider community and then wonder why “they don’t get it”. Keep ITSM front of mind by whatever mechanisms work best in your organisation.

4. Community Support.  Rovio has teamed up with BirdLife International, a world leader in bird life conservation, to raise awareness of threatened species and help in the prevention of extinction. ITSM can increase employee engagement through investment in the wider ITSM community. This can include provision of time and resources to allow staff to attend industry seminars and conferences. Organisations can demonstrate commitment to ITSM through support of industry bodies such as itSMF.

5. Waiting for the Next Game. There are regular updates to Angry Bird games but there is always a fair period to wait between each one. Do keen players just sit and wait for the next new edition of the game? No. Most dedicated players will look at how to improve on what they have already achieved. This may take the form of increasing best scores or finding hidden golden eggs. In ITSM we don’t have to wait for the resources to become available to take on the next big initiative. There are always things that can be improved whilst we are waiting. Look at ways to continually improve what you are already doing. A large number of small refinements over a period of time can have as much of a beneficial impact as the next large improvement initiative.

6. Same Old Same Old. It is easy in Angry Birds to get stuck on the same approach to a game. Use of a particular bird in a particular way may lead to a high strike at the start of a game and return high points. However after that it is difficult to achieve anything with the remaining birds. Due to the initial quick win, it is hard to want to change direction and the game is started in the same way each time. Initial high score and then failure to eradicate all the green pigs. It is necessary to stop and reassess the approach. Maybe a win would be better achieved by using the first bird in a particular way that doesn’t return high points but clears the way for subsequent birds to finish off the job at hand. In ITSM we should not get stuck on the same approach to a problem each time because it either seemed like the right thing to do, had some early wins or had worked in the past. We need to take time out to assess tactics and be prepared to change them in order to have a successful outcome.

7. Think Outside the Square. There are often ways to kill the green pigs other than just hitting them with birds. In the latest Angry Birds game “Mine and Dine”, birds can be fired at stalactites hanging from the ceiling of the mine that drop down and cause extensive damage to the green pigs seated on the mine floor below. In ITSM we should look and think outside the square and determine what can be leveraged to assist us in our ITSM improvements. This could involve looking to the business and the processes that they follow to manage change and customer relationships. What can ITSM glean and leverage from the way the business implemented effective and efficient processes? What tools are other areas of the business using that ITSM could also utilise such as CRM, ERP systems to support ITSM processes?

8. Avoid Despondency. It is easy to get despondent when you have been playing a game over and over again and not managing to complete it. You have tried every which way to kill the pigs and nothing is working. You can’t move on to the next game until you complete this one. It seems impossible. Just as in Angry Birds, we in ITSM should remember that these things take time. We have to keep chipping away until eventually we make a break through. We should also remember that there are others facing the same challenges and suffering the same frustrations. Seek support from others both within and outside the organisation and find out how they are, or have, overcome the challenges you are facing.

9. More Than One Way to Skin A Pig. In Angry Birds there is always more than one way to win a game. You can use different birds in different orders. You can hit different pigs in different orders. The key is to keep experimenting until you find the best solution i.e. the best score. Innovation is key to ITSM. In ITSM we should be constantly looking for ways in which to improve what we do today and new ways of doing things in the future. Staff should be encouraged to experiment with new ideas and given autonomy to take new ideas and try them out. They should be encouraged to think outside the square and challenge the status quo.

10.  A Big Bang Isn’t Felt Everywhere. There are a number of birds in Angry Birds that can drop bombs on the landscape and kill the green pigs in their wake. This can have a fairly drastic effect and move you closer to your goal of elimination of all the pigs. However, in most if not all cases, the bomb will not eliminate all the pigs. There will be pigs hiding in remote places that the bomb could not reach or protected with hard hats or some piece of infrastructure that reflected the impact of the bomb. It is the same in ITSM. Implementing a process with a big bang effect across the organisation is unlikely to work. Some people will adopt the change and understand the benefits to themselves and the organisation, whereas others will not. Some people may not hear the message you are trying to convey because of their location or other things that are preventing the message getting through. Take time to assess your target audience and how best to make your change that brings everyone on board. Adopt a gradual and varied approach that ensures you reach everyone – when you want to reach them and how you want to reach them.

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