Monthly Archives: July 2011

No More Heroes

Lots of companies have a hero culture. The people who are talked about are the ones who put in an all-nighter to get a customer’s system back so they can work the next day. They are brilliant, pulling off feats of endurance, persistence and skill that others only dream of.

If you run a break-fix IT service business, they are great. When it’s broken, they fix it. Things keep breaking, your heroes will keep rescuing you and your customers. Everyone’s happy.

Except when you are providing an always-on service. Things breaking is not so good then. In fact, the whole point about providing a service is to stop them breaking by anticipating what can go wrong and taking steps to prevent. You don’t need heroes. You need people who think ahead and put safety systems in place. You need ‘fire-watchers’ not ‘fire-fighters’. Different skills, different mind-set.

That’s why, to use the analogy of a previous blog, aircraft companies start by hiring designers, not crash investigators.


Computer says ‘No’

We’ve all experienced this. We have a problem, we are talking to a sentient being but apparently an inanimate piece of machinery is deciding we can’t have what we want. “Sorry, can’t help you” they say. “The computer says ‘no’”.

It’s rubbish, of course. They may well be able to help you. They probably would like to help you. it would give them job satisfaction, improve their self esteem and well-being and make them feel better. It would make you feel better too. But they’re not allowed to. They’ve been changed into an organic sound-card for a computer, their brains subservient to some thoughtless process and unbending programme.

Did someone really think it was a good idea to ‘design out’ the talent, skills, emotions and goodwill of that person? Someone really felt that would make a better service?

In case it’s escaped their attention, services are delivered to people. And they are much better delivered BY people. Make your people the centre of your service, not the computers. Your people have got much more to offer.

It’s funny on Little Britain. But that’s a comedy programme, not a instructional video.

Designed to Fail

I wish more services were designed to fail.

No, really. The problem is that they are designed to work. When they work, they’re great. We love them. It’s when they fail that we have problems. You don’t notice your broadband when it’s working. But when it fails, you feel like you’ve lost a limb. And then what happens?

Generally, your experience is terrible. No-one has thought very much about what to do when it goes wrong. Anyway, it only fails for 1% of the user base. Only when it’s you, you are 100% affected. No-one has thought about it from where you are.

Aeroplanes are a great product, aren’t they? That’s because they are designed to fail. That’s why Captain Chesley Sullenberger could land his Airbus 320 on the Hudson river and everyone could get out before it sank. (It helped that he was trained for failure, too)

We should be creating services that are designed to fail like that.