Choose your Major Incident Manager for who they are not what they are

Could it be that the personality and skillset of the Major Incident Manager is more important than what role they have in the organisation? I think so. Too often we get hung up on theory and lose sight of what matters in a crisis - people.

There was a good discussion over on the itSMFI forum - not a frequent occurrence. Daniela asked "Is the problem manager responsible for resolving Major Incident?" and some of the leading lights of ITIL responded with their usual common sense, sorting out the distinctions between problem and incident and between role and activity.

In general I was in agreement, except that I think one point got missed in all the ITIL theory: I don't think it really matters whether Major Incidents are managed by the Problem Manager or the Incident Manager or the janitor ... er... sorry the Sanitation Manager. I said

The roles of Incident Manager and Major Incident Manager require different skills and personalities. It's OK if they are different people. The step from Incident to Major Incident is distinct and the processes are different. It's OK of the people are different too.

An ideal Incident Manager is collaborative, details-focused, thorough, patient and persistent. A Major Incident Manager needs to be strong, decisive, cool under immense pressure and senior enough to face the CEO and customers in a hostile context.

An Incident Manager escalates to a Major Incident Manager. More than just about any other ITSM role, the Major Incident Manager should be chosen for who they are not what they do in their day job.

What do you think?


Don't Panic!

I do agree with you on this. I think the IT Ops Manager, or relevant dealing group manager should be the person who takes this role on. Without the authority to call upon the relevant resources, at anytime of day or night, then you are heading for a hiding.

Law enforcement

The best major incident manager I ever knew had (has) a background in neither development, nor operations... but law enforcement. And this person was (and is) utterly formidable in managing those situations, and the root cause processes afterwards.

It's been pointed out here before that major incident management is major incident management, whether you are talking about a train wreck, an oil rig fire, or a computing outage... a point of view with much to recommend it.

Charles T. Betz

Agreed. It is a Role, not an individual...

Choose who best fits the Function.

Glad United chose thusly:



Sorry, I was incorrect in my original post. The airline was not United. The airline was US Airways.


It depends

A major incident manager needs to have a lot of authority but also a good grasp of the subject matter. A good candidate is the IT Ops Director if there is one.

It would be a good reason to switch managers if it comes out that the current OPS manager/director is not able to handle a major incident situation but there is someone else to whom people turn in a crisis situation.

The idea that it should be the problem manager indicates to me a misunderstanding of the role of PM. Both IM and PM are people who handle normal events and manage daily processes. Major incidents should be rare events


Absolutely Personality matters

Filling the role as a Major Incident/Problem and Crisis Manager in my current role has as much to do with my understanding of technology and the environment I operate in as my personality in how I manage Incidents. I believe this skill, abilitiy or whatever originated within me during my 8 years in the Marine Corps. How so? Well for one, learning to effectively react to situations in a clear, consice maner. No room for panic, just response. That skill was further developed as I grew into positions of leadership. Understanding not simply the mission, but providing clear directions to others with one eye on the goal to ensure we continued to move towards accomplishing the mission.

The same could be said for managing in Major Incidents. Keeping the flock moving in the right direction focused on restoring service when many automatically revert back to silo based solutions, not thinking about the impact to the business. That is my key focal point when Managing Major Incidents. Re-iterating the urgency as it applies to the impact to business, while ensuring that resolver teams don't go down paths that lead no where. Sometimes I refer to it like herding sheep away from the wolf's den. lol It is both a tactical and yet socio-policial to ensure that toes are not stepped on or ego's bruised wihtout first understanding that it is not personal, but business. It is also key to continue to develop and grow those relationships during non-incident times so that when the shiznit hits the fan, you can jump in and begin to strategically align the forces to accomplishe the mission of restoring service back to the business.

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