Mirrors, Signal, Manoeuvre

car mirrorWhilst driving my one-hour freeway journey to my current client, I reflected on one of my constant gripes.

Before I continue – I make my apologies to any Australian drivers that may be offended.

When I learnt to drive (in the UK), a fundamental lesson was Mirrors, Signal, and Manoeuvre (MSM). This meant that I used my mirrors to determine if there was a space into which I could move. Only when I had determined that there was a space would I signal to indicate my intent to change position. Having indicated my intent, I would then manoeuvre into the new position e.g. change of lane.

My experience driving in Australia is that many drivers signal their intent to change lane regardless of whether there is a space to move into. It seems to m e that they have rearranged the MSM principle to be Signal, Mirrors, and Manoeuvre!

When I see a car signalling to change lane, and I am in the collision path if they were to do so, I assume they have not seen me and I take preventative action such as braking to give them space.

So as for the millionth time I scream ‘Mirrors, Signal, Manoeuvre you idiot’ my sad ITSM self reflected on what a lack of a MSM system means for our industry.


The key here is the plural. Not one mirror but many – left door, right door and main interior. When we are looking to change direction whether it is a process improvement, change in technology or change in organisational structure, we need to check ALL our mirrors.

It is important to make a note of what you actually see in the mirrors as this will ultimately determine the direction that you are going to take.

Our mirrors include our stakeholders, our customers, our competitors and our employees. Have we looked to see whether our intended direction is in line with the organisation’s strategic direction? Have we looked to see whether our intended direction meets the needs of our stakeholders and customers? Have we looked to see what our intended direction means to our employees and what their reaction may be? Have we looked to see what our competitors are doing and the industry trends?

Too often we only use one mirror – and that is our assumption. I wrote recently about the danger of ITSM process maturity assessments and undertaking process improvement purely based on the numeric results. All because a process has a low score does not mean that it should be the focus of your attention. That is like your driving instructor telling you to change lanes and you doing so regardless of the hazards in the way.

Watch for the blind spot. All because the latest trend in the ITSM industry is Service Catalogue, or any other ITSM process for that matter, doesn’t mean that you should be doing it. What does the business need?

Our precious resources need to be focused on the things that are going to deliver business value. Is your continual service improvement (CSI) aligned with business needs or just the things you think you should be doing? Do you share your CSI register with the rest of the business and get business input to the prioritisation of improvements? Do you get feedback from the Service Desk on what are the most frequent complaints from the business?

If not, you are not using all your mirrors and are likely to move in a direction that will not deliver value and a return on investment.


Once you have used all your mirrors and determined the right direction that will add business value, you now need to signal your intent.

You need to signal to the rest of the business what you are doing based on their feedback. This shows that IT is doing what the business has asked for and not just what IT thinks it should be doing.

Whatever your improvement is, it is going to effect people. It could be a process change, a technology change, a structure change. It can affect how people do their jobs, it can change roles, it can change team structures.

If you want to ensure a smooth transition, you need to signal early the nature of the change and what the future direction looks like. Organisational change management will be pivotal in transitioning individuals, teams and the organisation to the desired future state.

For successful change you will need to communicate the need for change and address the ‘what’s in it for me’ (WIIFM) factor. You need to signal early and clearly so that you can identify any resistance to change and put in place a resistance management plan to address any resistance at all levels of the organisation.

This will be in addition to your communications plan, your sponsor roadmap, your coaching plan and your training plan. All of these will be based on your analysis of the unique characteristics of the change and an assessment of the predisposition to change from the impacted parts of the organisation.

Unless you signal early you will not have time to make this analysis and undertake the required assessments to have an effective organisational change management strategy.


Once you have signalled intent, follow through. It’s time to manoeuvre and make the change you promised.

However, you should be prepared to alter the direction depending on circumstances. Just as if driving in an area with potential hazards, pedestrians or cyclists, you may need to check the mirrors and blind spot again before committing the manoeuvre.

Keep checking that the change you are making is still appropriate and in line with business direction.

If you do need to make a change in direction, communicate the reasons for the diversion and ensure they are understood.

If the direction you are going is still appropriate, communicate progress on a regular basis. Don’t fall into the trap of announcing a change and then getting so embroiled in creating it that no-one knows what is going on.

Throughout the change you will need to regularly evaluate your organisational change management effectiveness and adjust as necessary. You will need to collect and analyse feedback, diagnosis any gaps and manage resistance, and implement corrective actions.

Don’t forget to celebrate early successes. This creates a positive attitude towards the change and builds momentum for the change.


So, remember to check all your mirrors so that you can ensure your manoeuvre is in the right direction and signal your intent to all your stakeholders on a regular basis. If you do that your chances of a collision are drastically reduced!

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