headshot of Patrick Cronin

Patrick Cronin


Service delivery issues are inevitable, and CIOs often spend considerable time wondering how to address them. These issues typically come down to issues related to gaps in monitoring or problem management, yet even with the cause identified, mitigation does not always come easily. 

Operations teams facing service management issues usually become superb at incident management since they often spend endless nights, weekends and business days restoring service. These organizations perform the usual root cause analysis for each new incident, but often fail to identify the underlying issues that could enable them to prevent future occurrences.

Organizational maturity makes the difference

It’s easy to look at the complexity of the environment for which IT administrators are responsible and blame that for service delivery issues. Operating systems, hypervisors, firmware for hardware, ethernet drivers, and host bus adapter drivers (storage) must all be compatible. Vendors do not always test all possible permutations, so one finds transient issues causing failures or performance issues. When incidents occur, operations teams become good at rebooting servers or otherwise fixing the issue, but not at identifying and dealing with the root cause.

What often makes the difference between organizations that can consistently drill down to root causes and those that cannot is a culture that rewards candor. It is really that simple. 

When employees worry that they will take blame and suffer consequences for causing incidents, they do not happily participate in problem management. They fight back during the process, demanding proof of their culpability rather than contributing what they know in pursuit of solutions. They are likely to defend their work and the components they are responsible for. 
Mature organizations identify all technology components that could be at fault for the incident and look closely at each one to determine whether it was part of the reason for a failure. Crucially,  they reward individuals for uncovering the cause; rather than assigning blame, they take information neutrally and work together towards solutions. 

Building teamwork through mature culture

When organizational culture discourages working as a team and being forthcoming about mistakes, the entire team loses. Some personnel choices can help shape the culture in productive ways. 

The first mistake many organizations make with their problem management process is in viewing the Problem Manager role as an administrative position. The Information Technology Infrastructure library—a set of best practices for managing IT services—recommends filling the role with a senior technologist. Technical members can best flesh out action plans and analyses, where administrative members go through the motions of collecting data without fully appreciating the significance.

That’s just a first step, though. Building that trusting culture of collaboration, rather than blame, is essential. 
When people feel safe and rewarded for finding the root cause, they’re willing to admit to being the cause of an issue—it leads to a collaborative approach to a solution rather than to punishment. 

Of course, there will be repeat offenders, people who may not be suited for their jobs or otherwise disengaged and acting careless. While one may question how to deal with such individuals, this should be a secondary concern. Mature organizations create an environment that naturally pushes out poor performers. They only walk employees out the door when they fail to follow process like change management or embrace improvement initiatives.

To summarize: While service delivery issues often can be traced to technologies, discovering those root causes depends on organizational culture. Reward people who acknowledge their mistakes or misjudgments and the role those played in causing issues and you will find the whole process easier and much more productive. 

Learn more about the importance of organizational culture in agency operations.

About this author

headshot of Patrick Cronin

Patrick Cronin


Patrick Cronin, a solutions architect specializing in cloud implementations, is part of CGI Federal’s National Security and Justice business.