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Enterprise Digital Podcast - Revisited
04 December, 2023 ITSM


You can be nice; you don’t have to be a b*stard

Continuing our series of reviews of our previous podcasts, we focus on when Rob England joined Ian Aitchison and Barclay Rae.

Rob is fondly remembered as The IT Sceptic but that reached the end of the road after some 14 years of blogging and 15000 blog posts. He partnered with his wife, Cherry Vu to create Teal Unicorn.

He and Cherry engage clients at a business level in Vietnam, and Rob’s New Zealand contacts now look to him for more business-centric advice.

“Those of us who’ve been on the ITSM journey, know that sometimes there’s a lot of carrot, a lot of stick and not so much carrot with trying to introduce ITSM into organisations, whereas trying to introduce humanistic ways of working is generally met with delight.

“It’s all about being nice, you know, that’s, that that’s kind of kind of funky.”

Anyone who has worked in IT for several years have seen the changes, and there is no way you cannot run to catch up.

“I feel like IT as a culture has evolved from being very thing-centric 50 years ago – all about computers, to being very process-centric.

“With the birth of all the IBM Red books, and then ITIL and Prince 2 it was all methodological.

“People, process, technology: We start with technology, then process, and then around the turn of the millennium, we went all people-y.”

Then came DevOps, Agile and the influence of social change and advance inside and outside of IT.

“IT has evolved up through those higher levels – each one includes the one before it. And lately, with the influence of Agile and, and social change, I feel like there’s a fifth level above all that, which is an ideological level.

“I feel like that’s the next step in thinking – about culture and social things beyond the system.

“The rules are different. And you’ve got to play entirely differently in the new game. You’ve got this growth within IT, of IT growing up, and at the same time meeting these two big things that are going on outside. It’s an exciting time because all this stuff’s colliding.”

Improving culture

Rob has found most people contact Teal Unicorn because they want to be better and improve the culture of their organisation.

They focus on starting the conversation with where they are, what they need to do, and holding off on the theory. If they want to know where they are getting this from, they can demonstrate where their approached lead back to, but it is more about experimental behaviour.

“Start where you are, experiment. Just try it.”

Just as importantly, they must be in the right headroom.

“If you want people to work in new ways, then where’s the capacity for them to do anything other than desperately trying to get their day job done?”

Thirdly they lead with the realisation that people cannot work in new ways until you manage new ways. Lead management to realise that they are significant part of the problem, and not the solution.

“I believe strongly now that if you change management, all the rest of it just follows if you’re 100%, focused on just changing the management, how the organisation gets managed, then I think that the people working differently just happens.

“Several times we’ve met people who thought that being a bastard is part of the job description for a manager.

“That’s when we say, you know, if you’re nice to people, you actually get more out of that. It’s like this revelation that I could actually manage in a different way than then command and control.”



No chat with Rob England would be worth it’s weight in gold without touching on Standard+Case.

“I had this little blinding flash of the obvious that some of our work is standardised, and some of it is cases like medical case and legal case.

“If you’ve got an SLA that says how long are you going to take to resolve this incident? If it’s standard, you can say, well, we know exactly how long it’s going to take to resolve this incident. We have an ITIL standard for it, we’ve got a template in to say, here’s how you resolve these.

“But there’s a whole bunch of incidents where we should go, ‘we have no idea and we’re not going to promise.’

“The distinction that hit me was that we’re trying to make the whole world standard and we’re punishing people, we’re treating it as an exception condition for stuff that won’t fit into the standard.”

Key Takeaways

What Got you here won’t get you there: IT has evolved, and the rules have changed. The next step in thinking is about culture and social things beyond the system.

Experimental behaviour, headroom and manage in new ways: Focus on encouraging experimental behaviour; understand how changing the way management functions plays a big part in making organisational change.

Standard+Case: We’re trying to make the whole world standard and we’re treating it as an exception condition for stuff that won’t fit into the standard.

It does seem to be the natural line of fracturing the world into stuff that’s either standard or its case.

Listen to Rob on the Enterprise Digital Podcast

Connect with Rob via X (formerly Twitter) @rob_england or find him on Linked In.

The Enterprise Digital Podcast is a regular discussion on all matters related to Enterprise Service Management and Digital Transformation. The hosts are Barclay Rae and Ian Aitchison, who share and discuss their thoughts on the converging worlds of technology, service management, people and management, business and corporate development, governance, automation and more… Regular guests will be invited to try and get a word in …

Listen to the podcasts on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Google Podcasts.