itSMF Trondheim – Why things MUST change

Published on Friday 1 November 2013 by in News with no comments

At the itSMF USA annual conference an international group of individuals signed and launched a ‘call to action’ to change the ITSM industry. Why? We recognized that our industry has become ‘stagnated by a systemic and fundamentally broken set of attitudes and behaviors’. The current ways of doing things are not delivering the required business value. Revolutionary or radical change is needed across the industry. The Service Management Congress website was launched with the call to action to help bring about this change.

At the itSMF Trondheim event I performed an ‘Attitude, Behavior and Culture’ (ABC) workshop with a group of delegates. The workshop and the presentation I conducted at this annual event were both aimed at showing what is broken, and sharing new ways of doing things. In my plenary presentation I focused on an 8-field approach to ‘Improve the Return On Value of a training investment’ – moving beyond certification to realizing demonstrable behavior change and business results. One delegate stated ‘This needs to be a part of the revolutionary practices from the Service Management Congress’.  This presentation has now been given at several itSMF global events and I will be presenting this at the ITSM13 event in the UK.

The ABC workshop was to help organizations assess their own hidden Attitude, Behavior and Culture barriers, and to identify concrete improvements to take away, helping us shift from an ‘internal mindset’ to a ‘business focused mindset’ helping us shift away from ‘process for the sake of process’, to ‘processes that deliver value’, helping to show that people trumps process and technology.

Why did itSMF Trondheim invite me to do these sessions?

Dagfinn Krog, itSMF Norway program chair explains: “The way I see it, many IT organizations have a problem in relating to where the value from their services are actually realized, and lack the understanding – on an individual,  cultural and organizational basis – of why they really exist and what it will have to take to justify their continued existence. I keep looking for ways such as the ABC of ICT and business simulations that may help members of IT  understand this and incorporate it into their culture, organizations and very instincts. I see the SMCongress as an important initiative in order to create a sense of urgency in inspiring the changes that the IT industry sorely needs if they want to still be here in a few years. IT must exist for the benefit of the business, and as a catalyst to create business opportunities and value, and not just as an end goal in itself”.

ABC workshop.

Why this workshop? We have had ITIL and other best practice frameworks for more than 20 years, despite the millions of certificates we still have difficulty knowing how to successfully use these frameworks to realize business needs, and we have difficulty creating buy-in, overcoming resistance and embedding new ways of working in the organization. Why is this?  It is because of ABC (Attitude, Behavior and Culture). ‘ABC is like an Iceberg, much of it hidden beneath the surface yet capable of causing enormous damage to your ITSM improvement initiative, or more importantly to your business!’. In our view ABC is the number 1 success or fail factor for ITSM improvement initiatives.

For too long now the Iceberg has remained invisible, we don’t see it, we don’t talk about it, we ignore it and hope that it will go away by itself. The fact that it has existed for more than 10 years proves that current ITSM training isn’t helping address it. 94% of respondents in a survey revealed that ‘current training and certification doesn’t help address ABC issues’. It is time for something different. The good news is that ABC is a mandatory requirement for obtaining ITIL master, but unfortunately the ITIL expert level does not help develop these ABC capabilities.

The ABC workshop focused on two exercises.

  • Customer & User focused’ .
    ITIL® is all about delivering services to the business.
    What is the User perception of our ABC worst practices? What impact and consequences do these worst practices have? Are these worst practices an acceptable business risk?
    Which parts of ITIL® would help solve these? Are we actually adopting and deploying these processes?
  • Resistance’.
    All ITSM improvement initiatives meet with resistance. In more than 50% of the cases this resistance leads to ITSM initiatives failing to meet the hoped for goals. What type of resistance will we (or do we) see and experience if we try to apply ITSM best practices? What should managers do to prevent or address these?

Customer Exercise

In this exercise delegates choose ABC worst practice cards they THINK that their users would choose if asked.

The top cards chosen during the customer exercise were:

  • No understanding of business impact and priority
  • Throwing solutions over the wall and hoping people will follow them

The next task was to explore the IMPACT of these worst practices. When asked the definition of a service only 1 person knew. ‘A Service is a means of delivering Value to Customers by delivering Outcomes they want to achieve without the ownership of specific Costs and Risks’. There are 4 keywords that everybody in IT must know – Value, Outcome, Costs, Risks.

Delegates were asked ‘Do your employees attending ITIL® training know what you are hoping to achieve using these types of frameworks’?

‘No’! Another top scoring ABC card is ‘ITIL is the objective, not what it should achieve’.

‘No understanding business impact & Priority’ scores consistently top in world-wide workshops, and has done so for 10 years! Consistently people do not know it is all about V.O,C,R. Two other high scoring global cards which are related to this and symptomatic of our failures are ‘IT is too internally focused’ and ‘IT thinks it doesn’t need to understand the business to make a business case’.

Delegates stated that the impact on the business as a result of ‘No understanding business impact and priority’ was ‘Lost revenue and business opportunities’, ‘wasted resources and costs’. It was seen as ‘an unacceptable business risk’.

When asked if delegates KNEW that these were the cards and the impact the business would choose or  whether this is just what they THINK. The answer is generally ‘this is what we THINK, as we have not engaged with the business to find ou what issues they want solving’!……yet we are applying ITIL to solve business needs?’

We then explored ‘Which ITIL would help solve this issue with impact and priority’? Feedback was primarily focused on Service desk, Incident management (operational) but not on Change management (tactical and strategic) or Service portfolio management (Strategic). When asked how many are applying these strategic processes only 20% said yes. One was actively using Business Relationship management to explore these issues and gain a better business understanding. This means 80% identified a recognized ABC worst practice which was an unacceptable business risk but ITIL was not being adopted to help solve this ‘business problem’. This helped show the hidden Iceberg of ABC.

Break through actions

We brainstormed actions that can be taken, or actions that delegates have already taken that helped change attitudes and behavior. These were the findings:

  • Perform an ABC customer exercise within your IT teams and then check this with business people. How large is the gap in understanding? Which are the issues the business find an unacceptable business risk? How can ITSM be used to deliver more business value?
  • Ensure at the start of ITIL® training that V,O,C,R is explained in the context of what the organization is trying to achieve with ITIL®.
  • Send IT people into the business for 1 day to learn how the services are used, what the impact is when services are down. How services contribute to business value. Have people present back their findings in their team meetings.
  • Have business people present at IT meetings, explaining about V,O,C,R and how IT supports, enables or is a barrier to this.
  • One delegate said they sent IT people into the business and saw a marked improvement in attitude and behavior and increased awareness of impact and priority.
  • When employing new IT staff ask them ‘What does our business do? How does IT support our business? What do you think is the impact when IT isn’t working?’ – too many people believe they are entering ‘IT careers and IT jobs’ rather than business jobs in which they have technology skills to apply to support and enable the business. One delegate said that this was already a part of HRM policy. This is a ‘mind-set’ shift we need to realize.
  • Incorporate ITSM training into high schools and higher education to show how ITSM is a strategic capability and how it supports and enables business value and helps manage business risks. The next generation of professionals entering IT skilled roles must understand ITSM concepts in relation to business needs.
  • Too many IT people think it is all about delivering value and forget about the risks. Ensure IT people are aware of how they can help reduce business risk. If IT can demonstrate an understanding of business risks and can demonstrate they are mitigating these then they are more likely to be seen as a valuable partner to the business.
  • IT organizations must gather facts and figures relating to V,O,C,R if they are to make a business case for investing in ITSM.
  • ITIL® should be used to focus on solving business related problems not ‘Implemented’ for the sake of it. Facts revealed that $980 billion is lost due to poor investments in IT and that $26.5 billion is lost due to downtime. ITSM is a strategic set of capabilities to help mitigate these risks and should be used as such. Whenever I ask IT employees on an ITIL® training course ‘Why are you are on training? Why are you ‘doing’ ITIL®’? the majority of the answers are  ‘to obtain a certificate’ , ‘I don’t know I was told to come’. Is it any wonder so many initiatives fail to gain the HOPED for value.

Resistance exercise:

Resistance is a fact of life when it comes to changing behavior. Accept it. Embrace it. Do something with it. Resistance is not always negative! Resistance can be used to mobilize action.

The second ABC exercise was focused on identifying resistance to ITSM improvement initiatives. The top cards chosen were in line with global figures.

  • Throwing solutions over the wall and HOPING that people will follow them.
  • Saying yes meaning no
  • Process managers without authority
  • No management commitment

Some delegates said they were on their second or third attempts at ‘implementing ITIL’ and had met these issues.

Delegates were asked ‘How many have read ‘Planning to implement Service management’’.


Why not?

  • Most did not know it existed
  • You do NOT need to read this book to get your ITIL® expert certificate

So far I have asked more than 6000 people World-wide and still only about 5% have read this book. Furthermore the book forms no part of formalized certification or training to develop capabilities for understanding and dealing with change. This is something that MUST change. I also suggested Balanced Diversity as a book that explains more about change – this is a publication published by the itSMF!

If they had read these books or performed this ABC exercise they could have identified and agreed countermeasures and helped avoid some of these common pitfalls.

The team decided to brainstorm countermeasures for :

  • Lack of management commitment’. Gaining commitment was considered crucial for dealing with ‘saying yes and doing no’, ‘process  managers without authority’ and ‘throwing solutions over the wall’
  • What behavior do managers need to display to demonstrate commitment.


Gaining management commitment

  • Managers must be made aware of the impact on V,O,C,R and particularly risks.
  • Facts and figures need to be used to show business costs, business loss, business impact to make a business case for ITIL.
  • To change people must either feels a sense of urgency for change ‘what if I don’t’ – which is either a personal consequence or a consequence to the business, or ‘what’s in it for me?’ – either a personal gain/benefit and an organizational gain.
  • It is important to understand managers motivators (what is keeping THEM awake at night? What do they need to make them successful), also managers need to understand employee motivators.
  • To gain business commitment: design together with the business. If ITIL is being used to improve customer value then engage with the business, involve them in design. Ensure facts and figures are used (related to V,O,C,R) to help create the business case and business buy-in.
  • CSI was seen as an important enabler. Solve a problem using ITIL, then take-on newer, larger problems gaining more commitment and buy-in.

What do managers need to do

  • Managers should ensure all employees are aware of the reasons for doing ITIL®. In terms of the sense of urgency (what if we don’t) as well as answer the questions ‘what is in it for me (us)’, in terms of V,O,C,R.
  • It was felt that changing employees mindsets and attitudes will help create more buy-in and understanding of why processes need to be followed. Sending IT people into the business and seeing the impact is a powerful instrument for changing attitudes.
  • Managers need to adopt consequence management. This does not need to be ‘fire them!’ or ‘punish them’. Consequences can be linked to positive motivators. For example a technical specialist not sharing knowledge (loss of power and status) – if the specialist hands off adhoc, firefighting work he or she can be given challenging new technology opportunities (if this is a motivator).
  • Managers need to reward desirable behavior and confront immediately undesirable behavior. make it visible. Rewards do not need to be financial. It can be recognition for a job well done, allowing employees to go to industry conferences.
  • It seems that lack of discipline in ‘decision making’ and ‘consequence management’ are well recognized in the Norwegan culture. On the one side ‘Governance structures ‘ and clear ‘accountabilities’ can help with this, on the other side ‘quantifying the impact’ and using ‘motivators’ can help.
  • Involve opponents in change initiatives – don’t shut them out. Involving them helps make resistance visible early in the process and also helps foster ‘ownership’.
  • Involving people and teams and having THEM improve their own processes helps create ownership and buy-in and avoids the ‘throwing it over the wall’ perceptions.
  • Managers need to develop more leadership capabilities: Not to micro-manage, to understand and apply consequence management, to understand motivation, to empower teams, to apply situational leadership. Too often managers are poorly equipped and ITIL training does not address the ABC issues well enough.
  • Engage with and use champions, have them lead the way for their teams, have managers lead by example.
  • Ensure accountabilities are clearly defined and understood. Making people accountable raises the response ‘not unless…’ which allows conditions to be defined. E.g not unless People (roles, responsibilities, authority is defined), Process (designed together, end-to-end, being followed, being improved), Product (supported and enabled by accurate, timely information).
  • Process managers need explicit or implicit authority, managers must demonstrate they support the authority granted.
  • Processes need to be continually evaluated. Are they fit-for-purpose and fit-for-use. CSI should be embedded in the culture. Improving your work is your work. IT is in continual change. Rapid emerging technologies, changing business demands. This means ITSM capabilities must be continually evolving to both meet and enable these changes.
  • Use experiential learning as part of training initiatives. This helps confront people on ‘undesirable behavior’, and creates buy-in as people have to develop their own processes and can see, feel and experience the benefits of process working. Survey results reveal the impact and benefits of using these types of interventions. Simulation exercises also help capture valuable input for a CSI initiative.

By doing the ABC resistance exercise the delegates had identified hidden undesirable behavior within their organizations. By making it visible they were able to discuss the behavior and work together to agree countermeasures. The exercise took 1 hour, ‘if we had done this BEFORE we embarked upon our journey we could have avoided a lot of pain, frustration and wasted time and effort’.  Imagine if this 1 hour exercise was part of ITIL® expert training?.

A recognized call to action for the industry was to change the ITIL® certification to place more emphasis on dealing with implementation aspects. ITIL expert qualification must ensure these types of capabilities are taught, and preferably certification granted when a student has demonstrated the ability to apply them to a real life ITSM improvement initiative.

Great practice exists

Each time I do these workshops innovative solutions are shared on how people addressed ABC issues. These are often valuable experiences and tips that others could benefit from. If ITIL® experts were to document their journey as a small case, what did they try, what worked well, what didn’t,  having it signed off by somebody in the business, these would provide a powerful database of practical examples. From these cases we could distill new practice and approaches to share with the community. These would provide powerful input to CSI of our own industry.

Call to action

If having read this you believe that radical change is needed in the ITSM industry, in how we train and certify, in how we deploy these practices then please sign the call to action and join a community seeking to bring about change. This community can channel their feedback into Axelos giving them valuable input for renewing best practices.

Share this article

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *