Another good post from Seth Godin.

The post talks about short term vs long term problems and how it is easier to focus on the immediate problems.

This is true for all of us, including the IT department. We see today’s problems with much more clarity than tomorrow’s or next year’s.

How do you balance the immediacy of today’s problems and the importance of tomorrow’s?

A classic example is balancing working on help desk tickets vs eliminating future tickets. Sure, everyone agrees that eliminating future tickets is the right thing, but how many help desks actually behave that way?

I would suggest that if you prioritized all the active tickets, some of them are lower priority than preventing future tickets.

Let’s look at an example. Imagine a help desk that gets 50-75 tickets/day. Imagine they also have identified a good candidate for ticket elimination; that is some work that, if performed, will eliminate some number of future tickets. Let’s say it will take 20 hours of work.

If you approach the 50-75 tickets/day as a single block of work, AFTER which you work on the ticket elimination, you will never make progress.

However, if you look at those tickets, there are very likely tickets that are not urgent. They have a workaround; they are questions; they can wait until later. Those tickets should be prioritized LOWER than the ticket elimination work. You fit the 20 hours in before handling the lower priority tickets. Perhaps not in a single stretch but some each day.

Because if you can eliminate future tickets, you are giving the gift of time to both your team and the users. If you can eliminate ten tickets a week, that is time your team will have for other things, like doing more ticket elimination. A virtuous cycle.

Of course, this is easier said than done. It requires discipline, a focus on the future, and permission for help desk personnel to ignore some tickets for a day or two. Also, if you have a hard focus on metrics, this can trip you up.

Make sure you encourage and reward ticket elimination, or any future problem resolution. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

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