A Fool with a Tool is still a Fool

Published on Thursday 16 May 2013

We, as GamingWorks, have conducted a number of world wide surveys together with our partners and the itSMF into Attitude, Behavior and Culture (ABC) within IT organizations. The results of these surveys identified a number of key reasons why many ITIL or ITSM process and tool improvement initiatives fail to realize the hoped for results and why many fail because of resistance to change.  This case describes one organization that was struggling to ‘implement’ their tool and the approach they took to ensure success and effectively deal with resistance by engaging and empowering employees. At the same time this article helps show how ‘management commitment’, one of the top reasons for failure, was addressed and became a critical success factor.

The IT Department of a Government organization had installed a new ITSM tool and was planning the implementation phase. They chose the ‘Apollo13 – An ITSM Case Experience™ ‘ business simulation to support the implementation project. The reason for this was that they had heard how the use of a business simulation can help create buy-in and mobilize teams to improve the way they work, at the same time they recognized many of the fail factors described above and wanted to address the resistance. GamingWorks was asked to facilitate these simulations and to support the IT Management team with the transfer of knowledge. We were given the opportunity to integrate the simulation into a ‘learning intervention’ and support the transfer of knowledge so that what was learned was actually embedded into the daily operation.

This case description will show how we applied ‘transfer of knowledge’ and ‘Before – During – After’ principles during this Apollo 13 business simulation project. The ‘Before – During – After’ approach ensured that the intervention was:

  • aligned to business goals and business value;
  • that these were incorporated into the training and learning;
  • and that what was learned was translated into agreements, new working practices;
  • and measures to demonstrate that business goals were being achieved.

Design of the total Learning Intervention

To guarantee that the learning interventions delivers value on the level of business results you can follow the ‘Before –  During – After’ process.

BEFORE (all activities to prepare the Apollo 13 business simulation)

  1. We organized an intake interview with the management team of the IT department. During this intake we used the 8-fields model to explore the problems, the desired situation, the key learning points, and the actual learning process. We also discussed how to measure the results on level 3 (new behavior and functioning) and level 4 (business results). These are the levels of Kirkpatrick (Evaluating Training Programs: The Four Levels, Kirkpatrick).
  2. We designed a learning process:
  • We customized the simulation using the outcomes of the 8-fields model. (What did they need to learn? Which ‘undesirable behavior’ did they want to confront and which ‘desirable behavior’ were they trying to create? How would we create situations in the simulation to test this? How would we capture improvements to be taken away? How could we demonstrate the impact on business value and results when the new behavior was performed and show the negative impact when undesirable behavior was displayed).
  • We designed a questionnaire containing 20 questions for the participants. All questions were related to the learning objectives and the desirable behavior in order to measure the attitude and behavior change. These questions would be answered before and after the learning intervention.
  • We agreed with the IT Management team the action plan they would initiate after the simulation, to ensure that new, desirable behavior was embedded in the organization. In terms of the John Kotter 8 step approach how to ‘institutionalize the change’.

DURING (all activities during the Apollo 13 business simulation)

  1. We delivered two Apollo 13 business simulations focusing on the objectives and key behaviors of the project.
  2. Because a software support tool was important for the organization we reflected on how a tool supports and enables desired behavior, and the need for discipline and good behavior to ensure the tool really does support the organization in delivering value. We also reflected on a ‘holistic’ approach in which not only ‘tools’ (Products) are applied – but an integrated approach to ‘People’, ‘Process’, ‘Product’ and ‘Partner’ capabilities.
  3. Because one of the key drivers of the Initiative was ‘Customer satisfaction’ the facilitator played the role of the Customer in the simulation and gave clear expectations and feedback to the team about satisfaction. ‘What behavior would the customer see and experience that would create customer satisfaction’?
  4. During the reflection rounds we focused on the behavioral issues that the teams recognized in their daily work. We focused on behavior in relation to the current tool project deployment and process improvement. For example we would focus on why the tool was not up to date, who was responsible? Were responsibilities carried out? What needed to be done to ensure the tool stayed up-to-date and was providing useful information and enabling management & control.
  5. At the end of the Apollo simulation we showed how the team had applied new practices and behavior and how this had resulted in an improved performance and added business value.
  6. We then captured the lessons learned and documented the desired actions to be carried forward after the simulation. What could be taken away and transferred into daily operation? What could be taken away and applied to ensure the tool implementation project was successful?

AFTER (all activities to transfer the knowledge after the Apollo 13 simulation)

  1. We analyzed the questionnaire results taken at the start of the project with the IT Management team and identified the low-scoring items. We then translated these into ‘transfer actions’ for the next 2 months and assigned responsibilities and expected results.
  2. We analyzed the lessons learned from the simulation sessions and translated them to ‘transfer actions’ for the next 2 months. Which ‘ undesirable behavior’ had the team recognized and wanted to remove from their operation, which ‘desired behavior’ had they experienced and did they want to carry forward and embed in their daily work.
  3. IT Management would follow up the ‘transfer actions’. Discussing these with the teams and providing support, guidance and commitment.
  4. 2 months after the simulation participants would be asked to fill in the questionnaire again in order to measure the results of the transfer of knowledge into practice and daily operation.
  5. IT Management would make new plans and interventions for the upcoming 2 months, to ensure that the improvement cycle becomes a Continual Service Improvement approach and not a program or project initiative that loses drive and finishes.


This is what it is all about. All activities in the upcoming 2-3 months must be focused on solving these problems or realizing these objectives. During the Intake session using the 8-field approach the following items were identified:

  1. There is resistance within the team of employees relating to the tool. IT Management expects extra work and effort to manage this project and this resistance.
  2. The IT Management is convinced about the added value that the tool will provide, but the employees are not fully aware of these, and have not bought-into them.
  3. Employees must see, feel and experience the need to address the People, Process, Product and Partner aspects to ensure that the adoption, deployment and use of the tool is successful, and leads to improved ITSM quality.
  4. Employees must learn how to define and execute their own activities for the next months to work on the implementation of the tool.  This will ‘empower’ the employees and help instill ‘Ownership’.
  5. Employees must learn how to continuously improve the way they work with the tool. This will help foster a culture of continual improvement.
  6. We want to learn to work as one team, helping and supporting each other. People need to realize that it is end-to-end service delivery that delivers customer value and satisfaction and not a silo approach.
  7. We want to learn how to focus on customers using the Service Catalog.
  8. We need to understand how can we use the tool to manage our Service delivery capabilities.
  9. We need to understand how can we use the tool to improve customer satisfaction.

Specific customization of the Simulation

  1. The management will introduce the simulation, the objectives, the preparations, the expectations for this simulation and the transfer of knowledge activities. Management will communicate and demonstrate their level of commitment in both driving the change forward and in supporting and enabling people to change.
  2. Questionnaires will be filled in at the start of the simulation. Examples of the questions:
  • The tool supports me in my work
  • The tool is up to date with useful information
  • I use data from the tool to make my work easier
  • I see colleagues using data for reporting and decision making
  • ..

But also:

  • We make action plans after we follow any training
  • The Service Agreements are all clear to me
  • ..
  1. The Game facilitator acting as the ‘Crew’ will act as a ‘realistic’ customer. Showing the habits and typical behaviors of the customer within the organization. The team must learn how the tool can help the IT organization support the customer and achieve satisfaction, e.g ‘ensuring critical incidents are known and under control’, ‘accurate information can be provided to the customer in a timely way’.
  2. The Game facilitator acting as the ‘Mission Director’ will behave like a manager who needs specific information from the Flight Director (The leader in the game) to manage his Mission. This will help the team learn how the tool and the processes need to be organized to help realize and demonstrate performance to the business and how the information in the tool can help with decision making and setting priorities for resource allocation.
  3. The simulation facilitator will check how the team uses the tool to monitor the agreements with the customer (Crew Safety, Costs, Average Solving time).
  4. The Crew will ask for status updates from CapCom (The Service Desk in the game) to test how the tool helps them to document, monitor, track and escalate, the status of each call.
  5. The Mission Director will challenge the Flight Director with specific Information requests such as; budget, crew safety, business risks and impact, business priorities.
  6. During reflection we will explore the People, Process, Product and Partner capabilities and the impact of these on realization of mission goals.
  7. We will ask the teams to improve their processes and procedures and the use and deployment of their tool to improve the performance of the team.
  8. The tool would now be aligned to the information needs of the ‘roles and responsibilities’, and to the agreed ‘Process’.
  9. At the end of each round we will show them the measurable impact on costs, customer satisfaction, availability so that they can see, feel and experience the impact on performance.
  10. After each round we will explore the lessons learned and document them on the flipcharts.
  11. At the end of the day one of the team managers will capture the lessons learned and the ‘transfer actions’ together with his team. This helps to ensure that the IT team leader and the team own this list.

Specific transfer activities after the Apollo 13 session

  1. Management will discuss the status of ‘transfer actions’ in meetings.
  2. Management will give the right example using the tool information and reports.
  3. Management will be involved in projects.
  4. Management will help the employees to reflect on the Apollo Lessons Learned during day to day work.
  5. Teams of employees will work on action plans from the Apollo (in terms of people, process and technology).
  6. Teams and team members will be given compliments when we see desirable behavior. If people circumvent procedures or the tool is not used properly then direct, open and honest feedback will be given and discussed.
  7. The simulation facilitator will support the management team meeting after 2 weeks and 3 months to help the team with the transfer of knowledge.


The following table – I shows the results of the two questionnaires before the simulation (A) and 3 months after the simulation (B)


Question ABefore the SIM BAfter 3 months
1 Our Service Catalog is well translated to procedures in our work. 5,7 6,0
2 Our processes are design based on customer focus and Service Catalog. 6,7 7,2
3 Our new tool is effective and delivers added value. 6,2 7,5
4 We spend enough time on process and performance improvement. 6,3 7,1
5 I follow up all agreements I made. 8,1 8,6
6 I regularly inform my colleagues about the status of the agreements we made. 7,6 8,0
7 Other people regularly inform me about status of the agreements we made. 6,6 7,2
8 All Service Catalog agreements are clear to me. 5,7 6,3
9 It is clear to me what I need to perform according to the Service Catalog. 6,1 6,1
10 I ask for help if I cannot deliver what was agreed. 8,2 8,6
11 If somebody needs help, I give help. 8,2 8,5
12 Team work is important. 8,7 9,0
13 I know why we need to document and register all relevant items. 8,3 8,6
14 I register all the items I need to document. 7,4 7,6
15 I regular use information from the tool. 6,0 7,1
16 I observe that others are using information to make decisions and reporting 5,7 6,9
17 I realize I work for customers. 8,8 8,8
18 I like to know if the customer is satisfied 8,5 8,5
19 I observe we are using the lessons learned to transfer to day to day work 6,7 9,0
20 I am active in improving my work 7,7 8,0
21 Team leaders are giving me feedback. 7,6 7,5

Results from the questionnaire

  1. The questions related to the tool score significant higher. (Q3, Q15, Q16)
  2. Employees are satisfied about the fact that there is something being done with the learning outcomes (Q19)
  3. All Service Catalog items score higher. (Q2, Q8)

Other results from the reflective session with IT management

  1. We observe no resistance towards the tool directly following the Apollo 13 sessions. People are all aware about the value and the consequences related to process, people and product.
  2. Employees are very positive and show a positive attitude towards the tool.
  3. All employees are using the tool.
  4. There is  less effort/control required from management to implement the tool.
  5. We observe that employees are developing improvement initiatives.
  6. We observe ownership, we do not hear ‘they’.
  7. It seems that we see a higher maturity in employees.
  8. We spend less time on implementation, less costs and less effort.

Effects on the Business (customer satisfaction)

  1. Service Desk is able to give the customer reliable status updates of Incidents because of accurate documentation of status of each of the incidents by specialists.
  2. Faster resolutions of incidents relating to business impact because of better analysis of incidents. Incidents must be documented by Service Desk and solved by Specialist, better documentation helps.
  3. Customer satisfaction scores relating to incident resolution and information from IT has improved.

Customer satisfaction has risen and the negative impact on business value is reduced as a result of better alignment and steering of the Incident process in relation to business impact and needs.

Success Factors

After 3 months we had a meeting with the management team and explored the key success factors of this learning intervention. We came to the following conclusions:

  1. Management involvement
  • Management introduced the Apollo 13 business simulation and how it relates to business goals, objectives and the overall implementation approach.
  • Management participated in the business simulation.
  • Management put the project, and the results of Apollo on the agenda of meetings and sessions.
  • Management gave feedback to the employees, and continually reiterated the importance and aim of the improvement initiatives, complimenting desirable behavior and where necessary confronting undesirable behavior.
  1. During the Business Simulation the employees experienced themselves the value of the tool, the consequences for people, process and product, and learnt to give each other direct feedback.
  2. The action plan was created by the employees and also executed by the employees.
  3. The 3 steps are very effective (Before – During – After).
  4. Focus on the positive aspects. Don’t talk about negative things, this will lower the energy and creates a negative spiral.
  5. Make sure you plan time and resources for improvement.
  6. Measuring the results is very important. The first measurement shows the items we need to work on, the second one shows the effects of our activities and our effort
  7. Plan a short improvement horizon 2-3 months. This means we focus on a few important items, we improve, we measure and we celebrate the success.
  8. Stay focused on what you really want to achieve. This project brought good results and most of the objectives were met.
  9. In order to keep the energy focused management should:
  • Show that this new way of working is something we really must have and is structural
  • Correct employees if they are not showing desirable behavior
  • Give compliments to all employees


Quotes from Management

“ In one intensive day, this simulation shows the key issues of our IT department and shows the effects of the improvements we made during the 3 improvement cycles!, giving us a lot of practical improvement actions to take away and apply in our working environment.”

“ Participants of the Apollo 13 simulation can easily connect the scenarios and items to their day to day work and can identify improvement opportunities.”

“ Because of the detailed customization opportunities of the simulation and the scenario’s, this business simulation, Apollo 13, creates a lot of awareness and energy in the team on the important items.  The effects of this are seen in the weeks after the simulation.”

“ This dynamic one day events is fun, realistic, unforced and is an excellent start of our ITSM project!.”

Next steps (for the next 2-3 month)

During the last session we also discussed the next steps to be taken.

  1. Management must stimulate horizontal steering. Employees steer Employees. Let the process chain do its work. Now there is a lot of vertical steering from management to employee.
  2. Now the team is more mature, this requires a change in management style (situational leadership).
  3. Management should now ask employees to present the results of the tool, the processes and the improvements. Let them become successful and let them receive the credits from colleagues.
  4. Re-use the improvement cycle as we used during the business simulation.
  5. Translate above actions to a 2-3 month action plan, make a new questionnaire, measure and act…


Adopting and applying ITSM best practices and tooling very often demands a change in behavior. People do not like to change. These types of change programs take time to realize results and embed themselves in the organizational culture and routine ways of working. Management commitment and effort is vital to ensure attention remains focused and energy and effort is channeled toward making the change happen.

Creating buy-in and overcoming resistance is also a critical success factor if you want the change to happen. Using a business simulation helps create the necessary buy-in, it helps people learn how to translate ITSM theory into practice and empowers employees allowing them to identify their own improvement actions.

Measuring the success of an ITSM change program is also vital. At one level it is about measuring the concrete value or impact, for example increased Customer satisfaction, at a second level it requires measuring progress and possibly maturity. For example a process assessment to measure the way the processes and tooling are formalized and are made consistent and repeatable. At a third level, and equally important is the ability to measure the change to attitude and behavior. To measure the buy-in and level of resistance and commitment. This case shows how that third level of measurement can be performed at actions taken to realize buy-in, commitment and overcome resistance.