Moments of Truth & Moments of Leadership

Organisations that practise concepts like IT service management, Agile, Lean, etc may from time to time commission process maturity assessments. These assessments, usually conducted by third parties, can provide a fresh perspective on the health and maturity of your service provision. While there are various views in the IT industry on the effectiveness of these assessments, the end result in most cases, is a report that outlines the strengths and weaknesses of your service delivery with a series of recommendations.

Once these recommendations are handed down, the service provider usually selects and prioritises the recommendations for action. It is at this point, I'd suggest considering:

  • Moments of Truth, and 
  • Moments of Leadership.

Moments of Truth was a book written by the then President of Scandinavian Airlines, Jan Carlzon. Published in 1987, Jan's book outlines his position (with examples) that customers will remain loyal if they are treated as individuals. Jan suggests that this is achieved by empowering front line staff with the information and responsibility to meet the customers' needs without reliance on rule books and instructions from distant corporate offices (Carlzon, 1987, p.3). Moments of Truth are sometimes seen as a core principle of Outside-In thinking. Maturity assessments tend to focus on improvements with internal processes which aligns to "the rule books and instructions" that Jan referred to above. While I agree that there are benefits to be gained from process improvements, I recommend that decision makers prioritise recommendations that empower staff with information to independently meet customer needs. For example, establishing regular customer meetings to better gauge their demands of our services over internal, back office efficiency gains. Regular customer meetings will provide rich information to enable team members to better meet customers' needs, first hand.

Some team members may find such recommendations uncomfortable as they fear a sudden and unmanageable influx of new work. At this point I recall the lessons from Moments of Leadership.

In his article, Randy Conley offers five suggestions for preparing yourself for such defining moments in leadership. They are:

  • Be crystal clear on your personal values,
  • Develop a Leadership Point of View,
  • Expect to be criticised,
  • Understand that there will be personal cost,
  • Learn from the past. 

His article provides solid advice for such conversations with your team, and if consistently applied (with Carlzon's Moments of Truth) can lead to superior service delivery and customer perception. 

Carlzon, J., (1987). Moments of Truth. New York, USA: Harper & Row Publishers 

Conley, R., (2011). Retrieved December 18, 2012 from


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