ABC – Still the number 1 success or fail factor for practitioners

Published on Tuesday 19 May 2015 by in Blog with 2 comments

The itSMF in Belgium organized one of its regular themed sessions for its members. The theme was the ABC of ICT (Attitude, Behavior, Culture), and I was invited to conduct an ABC workshop.

The session for me had three main objectives:

One was to share insights and experiences into ABC – The NUMBER 1 success or fail factor impacting the successful adoption and deployment of ITSM best practices such as ITIL;

the second was to give people a practical instrument (ABC cards) and pragmatic actions that they can take-away and apply;

the third was to gather feedback for the ITIL practitioner initiative.

70-80% don’t get the value they hoped for from an ITSM investment”.

I started the session by announcing that 70% to 80% of ITSM organizations we survey state that they do NOT get the HOPED for value from their ITSM/ITIL investment. There was a wide spread recognition in the workshop. I asked how many were ‘doing ITIL’ or were ‘ITIL certified’ – the majority of hands went up. However only 2 people (consultant/trainer) were even familiar with the book ‘Planning to implement IT Service Management’  – a formal OGC publication! Is it any wonder we struggle to adopt and apply.

Less than 7% of 10.000 practitioners have SEEN Planning To Implement IT Service Management….let alone having READ it!”.

This to me is one of the top reasons we keep failing. People do not read the book AND the book isn’t part of the certification program! This book was partly written to help address ABC issues, it even states that ‘ …the most common reason for the breakdown of Service management initiatives is failure to recognize the importance of Organizational culture. Yet we don’t equip or test people on skills to deal with this.

As usual in these workshops I asked how many people know the definition of a Service according to ITIL? 2 hands went up from the 17.

VOCR – the new mantra for ITSM”?

A Service is ‘a means of delivering VALUE to Customers by facilitating OUTCOMES they want to achieve without the ownership of specific COSTS and RISKS’. These are the only 4 words EVERYBODY needs to be aware of ‘ Value, Outcomes’, ‘Costs’ and ‘Risks’ (VOCR) – but more importantly – in the context of YOUR organization. You should ask yourself ‘Why are we doing ITIL’? Some organizations have a business driver of availability, continuity or compliance – managing RISKS. Some need to focus on costs – doing more with less and see ITIL as a means of achieving this, some want faster and more reliable deployment of new innovative IT solutions to increase business value and need effective release deployment. Unfortunately our global survey reveals that ‘ITIL is the objective NOT what it needs to achieve’ and ‘IT has too little understanding of business impact and priority’ are STILL top scoring worst practice ABC cards chosen in workshops. It would appear that that ‘aligning ITSM initiatives with organizational strategy and priorities’ and ‘linking ITSM to corporate goals and objectives’ are critical capabilities we need to develop.

100% of initiatives meet with resistance. This isn’t necessarily negative. This is simply a risk that needs to be managed“.

Another key reason initiatives fail is ‘Resistance’. In our experience 100% of organizations adopting ITIL meet with resistance. It is a NORMAL part of change, the problem is that most organizations ignore it and HOPE that it will go away! In my view this is another critical capability that an ITIL practitioner would need to develop –the ability to ‘identify and manage risk’ in terms of resistance and ABC.

For this reason we conducted the ABC resistance exercise during this workshop. The purpose being to identify types of resistance and to explore counter measures for dealing with it.

Delegates were given a set of ABC of ICT cards are tasked with the following action: ‘What types of resistance do you SEE or expect to SEE when you try and deploy best practices such as ITIL?’ Each person chose 3 cards.

These were the top 5 cards chosen:

  • No management commitment
  • Throwing solutions over the wall and hoping that people will follow them
  • A Tool solves all problems – A Fool with a Tool is still a Fool
  • ITIL is the objective…not what it should achieve – No understanding of business impact & priority
  • Plan, Do, Stop….No real continual improvement culture’

There is a wide gap between what managers see as desired behavior and what other stakeholders expect“.

The ‘No management commitment’ card is consistently a global top card in the ABC workshops. Managers are frustrated when they see this, insisting that they ARE committed, however when I ask them which ‘desired behavior’ demonstrates this, there is a wide gap between what managers see as desired behavior and what other stakeholders expect to see that demonstrates this commitment.

The teams were asked to choose their TOP card. ‘Which card is the probable cause of other cards?’ The higher up the cause and effect chain the greater the downstream impact of the card. For this card they were then asked to write down ‘What ‘desired behavior’ do you expect key stakeholders to display to remove these types of resistance?’ We first explored ‘the key stakeholders’ Because of time constraints in the workshop we decided upon the following ‘ CIO/Management team(MT)’, ‘Line manager’, ‘Process manager’, ‘ Employee’ (process operative e.g. help desk employee, second line specialist).











The picture above shows the matrix made by the team. The top chosen cards are the rows and the key stakeholders are the columns.

The teams, representing different stakeholders discussed and explored and defined behavior they expected to see.

What were the results and findings? I cannot go into all the results without writing a book! but will give some examples that the teams discussed relating to ‘No Management commitment’ as this was a card all the teams identified. Desired behaviors included:

  • CIO/MT: ‘ Walking-the-talk’ – such as ‘confronting line managers’ who fail to allocate resources to the processes or who deliberately circumvent agreed ways of working, ‘recognizing and rewarding’ ITSM successes, continually communicating the purpose and goals of the initiative in meetings AND actions and decisions.
  • CIO/MT/Line managers: ‘ensuring VOCR goals are clearly communicated and EMBEDDED in decision making, prioritization and escalation mechanisms’.
  • Process managers: to demonstrate ‘wins’ with process metrics, metrics that demonstrate business value – metrics that MATTER; identify and target on pain areas that senior managers need to address. Demonstrate how ITSM can solve these pain points.
  • Employees: Use the CSI register to record examples of non-compliance to processes and the impact caused.











Was the exercise useful? One manager said to me afterwards ‘This has really helped me put into perspective the ‘resistance’ we see and can clearly expect. We are just starting our ITSM Journey. I will use the actions captured in my own plans and will use the cards with groups of stakeholders’.

Other conclusions related to top scoring cards:

  • Throwing solutions over the wall and hoping that people will follow them. Shows how we need to adopt different types of approaches for engaging people throughout the initiative.
  • A Tool solves all problems – A Fool with a Tool is still a Fool . The ITSM journey plan isn’t just about selecting the right tool, or designing processes. It is about integrating people, process, product and partner capabilities.
  • ITIL is the objective…not what it should achieveNo understanding of business impact & priority. ITIL must be aligned with business priorities and business goals. It is all about VOCR. ITIL metrics should not be too internally focused on efficiency and effectiveness but also on business value and impact.
  • Plan, Do, Stop….No real continual improvement culture. ITIL isn’t an implementation or installation project. It needs to create a culture of CSI.

The delegates all thought the ITIL practitioner program was a valuable initiative but felt that it must help them deal with the types of discoveries they made today. One delegate was already familiar with using the cards stating ‘we use the cards to engage with the various stakeholders to capture a broad assessment of current resistance and to agree individual, team, management and organizational actions for creating awareness, establishing a sense of urgency, identifying risks, and agreeing countermeasures aimed at creating buy-in and overcoming resistance’.


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