ITIL®4: Knowledge – The final frontier. ITSM the next generation. To boldly go…..

Published on Wednesday 28 October 2020 by in News with no comments

A simulation game? Nice to have or need to have?


             Expertise and skills acquired through experience or education;
            the practical or theoretical understanding of a subject.

Many organizations invest in ITIL® (or DevOps) hoping to gain knowledge to realize business value from their training investment, however many do not get the hoped for value. Why is this?

One reason is that traditional Foundation level training focuses on Blooms Taxonomy level 1 and 2. These being to ‘Remember’ and to ‘Understand’. 

The multiple choice questions are designed to test this

However the next level in Blooms taxonomy is ‘Apply’ – Use the knowledge in a new situation.  Traditional Foundation level training was not designed to focus on this level, yet many organizations hope for this and are disappointed when it does not happen.

Another reason is that we spend a lot of effort on the ‘education’ and ‘theory’ in order to pass the exam, but if we look at the definition of knowledge above it is also about the expertise acquired through ‘experience’ as well as the ‘practical’ understanding of a subject.

Often people are left to their own devices to translate theory into practice back in the working environment without coaching, support or feedback.  Which can lead to frustration at both an employee and management level as the hoped for value is not realized“.

We believe that ‘Whilst there is VALUE in a certificate, there is MORE VALUE in the ABILITY to apply theory in practice’.

Theory into practice

Our approach to gaining knowledge is not just to focus on the education and theory, but also to focus on translating theory into practice through the use of a 1 day experiential learning workshop ‘MarsLander’.

In this simulation delegates can take part in a business simulation in which they are challenged to practically apply ITIL knowledge in a simulated environment. Delegates play roles representing the end-to-end stakeholders in the IT value chain – learning what it means to ‘co-create’ value. The simulation is played in a number of rounds which also allows the team to design, experiment, reflect and improve – learning to apply continual learning and improvement skills. It is a safe environment in which the facilitator acts as a coach giving feedback and helping the team to discover their own solutions and develop the ability to translate theory into practice. At the end of the simulation exercise delegates capture ‘concrete improvement actions’ to take away.

“Not only is a simulation an instrument to help experience theory in practice, but it is also a continual improvement instrument. Empowering teams to capture improvements they want to take away and apply. Creating buy-in and commitment to applying new concepts”.

Certificate as goal

If your goal is to gain the education and theory to pass the exam and become certified then an ITIL Foundation course fits the bill. If however, your goal is to have delegates be able to translate theory into practice then an ‘ITIL®4 “Experiential” Foundation’ course maybe what you want. Reach out to one of our ITIL training Partners for more information about this.

Theory sandwich

Here is an example of how one partner sandwiched the simulation into their ITIL course.
Day 1 ITIL®Foundation theory, Day 2 – the simulation exercise, Day 3 ITIL®Foundation theory.

An alternative is to do the 2 days ITIL®Foundation theory, followed by a third day to play the simulation. This third day could be immediately following the Foundation or can be planned in at a later date with other stakeholders. ‘But that makes it longer! Where is the value in that? Surely a game is just to make it more fun. I’d rather people spent the extra time to pass the exam’!

What do delegates say?

Good questions. We did a survey with a number of organizations and asked them ‘What were the benefits of adding a simulation onto the training’?

The Top 3 benefits as perceived by customer organizations are:

  1.  ‘People started applying the behavior they had experienced in the simulation game, resulting in an Improvement in the quality of service.
  2. Reduces time, cost and effort to implement (best practices) as people have a better understanding on how to apply after the simulation experience’.
  3. ‘People got together more after the simulation game to analyze and improve their way of working together’;  Which shows how a simulation helps foster a culture of ‘continual service improvement’ and enables people to apply a pragmatic approach to analyzing and improving their work.

 “It is a powerful tool to understand the most important principles and components of ITIL®4 in practice. I’m very impressed….”  Roman Jouravlev, Axelos.

  • Eye opening …brings ITIL4 out better than any other course…’
  • ‘…it was incredibly helpful
  • ‘…it was excellent’
  • ‘…I thought the session was brilliant. A really different and refreshing way of bringing ITIL to life’
  • ‘…Great session….I’m inspired to learn more about ITIL 4

But more importantly, what do delegates learn and take away?

What delegates learn and take away partly comes back to what do you want, or need the delegates to learn, to take away, and do differently following the training?

Often ITIL training is done to pass the exam and NOT in the context of:

a) What problem are we trying to solve?

b) How can we ensure people learn to use the theory to solve this problem, and more importantly

c) How can we ensure that people take away and apply the learning? 

This is why we recommend use of the 8-Field model to scope the training and to help transfer the learning.

At the end of the day delegates are asked 3 key questions:

What did you learn? Which we use to match back to the start of the day question ‘What are you expecting to learn or discover today’? Ideally this is done prior to the simulation exercise with a sponsor or problem owner using the 8-field approach as mentioned above.

If this is not agreed in advance often what we hear is ‘I do not know, I was told to come to this training. I have no expectations or learning objectives’.

If expectations have been set, this is where the trainer and the Individuals ‘co-create’ value – aligning the simulation interventions and scenarios to create the learning moments.

What can you (personally) use in your day to day work? This can be used by the team leader or manager to help transfer the learning into daily work. This requires effort from the manager to enable and empower people and possibly to ensure coaching and mentoring to apply the new behaviors. This is where managers and individuals can ‘co-create’ value. If time is not allocated to practice, with feedback then the actions may not take place.

What could (should) we take away and use in our work? – providing input to a transformation or continual improvement initiative.  This is a list of actions that delegates have ‘bought into’ by experiencing the benefits of applying them in the simulation. An important follow-up here is management commitment to empower and enable teams to carry out these improvements. Ensure that time is reserved to carry out improvements. This is where managers and teams can ‘co-create’ value. If we carry out these improvements what will be the impact? In terms of the definition of a service according to ITIL – What will be the impact on Value, Outcomes, Costs and Risks’?

Here is an example of takeaway actions:

  • Practice communication discipline (active listening, avoiding assumptions, confirming agreements, confirming prioritization and value) – with feedback.
  • Improve transparency and visualization (create situational awareness of backlog of work, priority of work, bottlenecks) and to aid prioritization and decision making.
  • Engage with stakeholders (business, and upstream/downstream colleagues) to explore ‘what is value’? Identify conflicts and use to improve workload and workflow prioritization.
  • Apply ‘Progress iteratively with feedback’ capture and visualize improvements, discuss and prioritize as team and with end-to-end stakeholders if improvements impact value stream. 
  • Ask more questions. Asking more questions is more important than reacting and replying. Ensure questions are answered and decisions / answers confirmed.
  • Classify backlog of work in terms of value creating work, value leakage work and value improvement work. Ensure decision making authorities known to prioritize when conflicts arise between (for example) ‘features’ vs ‘technical debt’.

Sustainable value

A simulation is a powerful way of helping translate theory into practice, develop ‘continual learning and improvement’ skills and capture improvement actions to take away. However the true value lies in adopting an approach like the 8-field model to effectively scope the learning objectives and to ensure a transfer of learning back into the workplace. When the continual learning and improvement behaviors have been embedded into the culture then sustainable value can be realized, as well as adaptability to continual change.

Is a simulation nice-to-have or need to have? Is the extra day worth it in the long term? Or would you rather they spend the extra time to ensure they pass the exam?

Note: The figures on the effectiveness of experiential learning are based on an NTL research report that NTL no longer has. The figures have not since been scientifically confirmed.

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