Magazine Article | July 1, 2002

How To Have Your Help Desk Help You

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

A self-directed work team offers huge dividends in customer satisfaction and team morale.

Integrated Solutions, July 2002

In the last year, businesses have been under pressure to streamline and yet remain fully functional. IT support teams have been centralized, consolidated, decentralized, and downsized. "Don't work harder - work smarter!" is the rallying cry often accompanying these reorganizations. With all this upheaval, have we missed what is truly important? Does a restructuring really affect the intended change? If the goal is a tighter business focus, then a more fundamental change is required. We need to create an environment that encourages flexibility, creativity, cooperation, and high achievement.

Teaming And Empowerment
A mentor of mine once told me that if I wasn't comfortable with change and felt nervous about embracing it on a day-to-day basis, I should get out of the technology support business and become an accountant. In fact, many people are in the support profession because they like the fact that no two days are the same. So how can we leverage that inclination for business advantage? Begin with teaming and empowerment. This powerful combination can raise enthusiasm, motivation, and productivity to the next level. It also enables the team to run day-to-day operations, while leadership plans long-term strategy.

In order to successfully implement teaming and empowerment there are two "must haves." First, you must have a help desk operation that has successfully mastered what I call "food, clothing, and shelter first," or the basics of running a help desk. This requires solving the people, process, and technology equation. Second, the team must want to take the next step toward becoming a business partner to the organization. This partnership supports the key business drivers of the organization. If your help desk fits this description, you are ready to build a self-directed work team (SDWT).

I have found that the SDWT concept works well in every industry. But, it can only be successful if it has goals, boundaries, empowerment, training, and control. It is not an easy task, and everyone must be committed for it to work. However, the initial investment will pay back huge dividends in customer satisfaction and team morale.

Lead By Example, Manage By Exception
The title "manager" is a misnomer if you are doing your job right. Professionals do not need to be managed. They need to be led. A good manager gives the team the tools, people, money, and training they need and, if necessary, points the way. Sometimes the team will need assistance. As Mark Twain said, "You can be on the right track and still get run over by a train." When the team faces situations it cannot overcome, the manager can remove barriers, and set the team in motion again.

A common mistake, particularly in the early phases of setting up teams, is second-guessing an empowered team member. If that team member goes beyond the boundaries, don't overreact. Instead, pull them aside and let them know how they should handle the situation differently if it ever presents itself again. This may be difficult at first, but it will become second nature very quickly.

An empowered team can achieve more because there are fewer policies, rules, regulations, and boundaries to shut them in a box and prevent them from thinking their way out of it. We must reinvent the help desk and the help desk manager's role to be able to meet the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. Flexibility, creativity, and being able to reinvent yourself and your company's team are the only answers. And while you're at it, you might as well do it right and have some fun.