Why ITSM projects fail…

Published on Tuesday 3 April 2012 by in Blog with no comments

Following all the discussions on the web, twitters, blogs I very often see the word ‘Implementation’ related to ITIL. However, usually in the wrong context. ‘Implementation’ is indeed one of  the management of change strategies, however it appears to me that we are always using this word. But is it in all situations the right change strategy when adopting something like ITIL?

I very often use the model from the ‘the Change Factory’ to demonstrate that there are more change strategies that we can adopt and use in ITIL projects.

Two sides of Change

We can look at organizational Change from to different angles, without talking about right or wrong. We can call a Change ‘Cold’ or ‘Warm’.

Cold Warm
Need for Change Urgency Drive
Resistance Barrier Energy
Momentum Just incidental Continual Change
Culture Goal Attitude and Behavior
Empowerment External Commitment Internal Commitment


Example: In one organization the resistance of employees can be seen as barrier, whereas in another it gives energy to people. In one organization it may be all about reaching a goal and in another it might be about developing attitude and changing behavior so that people do the right things.

By identifying if the change is ‘Cold’ or ‘Warm’ we take our first big step forward in finding the most suitable change strategy.

Two types of Organization 

We may also consider two types of Organizations. These can also be seen as ‘Warm’ or ‘Cold’. Characteristics of a ‘Warm’ organization are:

  • Able to change itself
  • Self learning, team learning
  • Involving people
  • Self steering
  • Active employees, showing initiative
  • Empowered employees

A ‘Cold’ organization:

  • Suspicious
  • Passive
  • Controlled by Management
  • Cynical

Identifying whether the organization is ‘Warm’ or  ‘Cold’ also helps us decide on the most appropriate strategy.

If we now put these two aspects ‘Organizational type’ and ‘type of Change’ in a matrix, we will get this useful model.


Intervention (Reactive approach)


  • Crisis
  • Time pressure
  • Reorganization
  • High urgency
  • Specific goal, figures, targets
  • Not too much discussion
  • Resistance needs to be dealt with

Implementation (Active approach)


  • Improvement management
  • No real sense of urgency felt
  • Top management is convinced of the need to change
  • Implementation is pragmatic, rational
  • Top down approach
  • Rules, procedures, instructions
  • Project Management
  • Focus on behavior

Transformation (Interactive approach)


  • Sense of Urgency, reason for change felt and understood
  • Detailed objectives, goals, shared
  • Employees know why and how, no real instructions
  • Energy in the organization
  • Empowered
  • Commitment, buy-in
  • Involvement
  • Change in behavior and attitude

Renewal (Proactive Approach)


  • Self reflection
  • Learning
  • Continual improvement
  • Internal motivation
  • Self control
  • No time pressure
  • No real sense of urgency

Each situation requires a different change approach!

You see, if we use the word ‘Implementation’ we assume the organization is ‘Cold’ and the change is ‘Warm’. But what if we discover that the organization is ‘Warm’ and the change is ‘Warm’ we could chose another change approach.

And what if both the organization and the change are both ‘Cold’?

‘We need to perform an analysis of the type of organization and the type of change. The outcome could be ‘Cold’ / ‘Cold’ which could mean you choose the ‘Intervention’ strategy but if we are convinced that this approach will not be effective, we could work on ‘warming-up’ the organisation.

ITIL projects!

In ITIL projects we have a kind of implicit ‘Best Practice’ for ‘ITIL Implementation’. The Service Transition book talks about these types of activities.

  • create sense of urgency
  • deal with resistance
  • create awareness
  • build commitment
  • change behavior and attitude
  • involve management
  • involve employees
  • et cetera.

However, if we look at the previous theory about Change types and Organizational types, we see that we are simply firing buck-shot and hoping that we hit something, without having consciously chosen one of the 4 strategies. If we were to first do a quick check as to what the best strategy would be, would that change the way we are doing ITIL projects?

Warming Up organizations?

We know (from the ABC of ICT® Workshops) that changes are more effective when they are fully accepted by all employees, really integrated in new behavior and attitude, need no extra steering by management, coming from the internal motivation of employees, with shared goals et cetera, et cetera. These are all characteristics of ‘Warm’ organizations. So why couldn’t we warm up the organization first and create a ‘Warm’ organization. We can then use the ‘Renewal’ or the ‘Transformation’ approach. This could be a new view on ITIL projects.

Don’t let the change become ‘Cold’!

This is another strategy. If the change is ‘Cold’ maybe we are too late. Maybe the sense of urgency is now very high because we did some self reflection. We were not proactive, not reflective and we didn’t do anything about Continual Service Improvement. But, wait a minute, these are the characteristics of a ‘Warm’ organization. So you could say: if you are a ‘warm’ organization the characteristics are proactive, self reflective, and as a ‘Warm’ organization you don’t need the strategies of ‘Implementing’ or ‘Interventions’.

What’s the new word for ‘Implementation?”

Do we need a new word? Well how does this sound; “I’m doing an ITIL Transformation” or “I’m doing an ITIL Renewal”… I think it’s not in the word but in the strategy you are following. Be aware of the type of Change and the type of Organization and choose the best strategy. Also ask your self the question ‘what kind of project am I in?”. Are you just starting with ITIL?,  then maybe you should ‘Implement’ some basic aspects. If you want to increase quality you need to ‘transform’ or ‘renew’.

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