Making ITIL Happen – Believing

I’ve been struck this week by the contrasting levels of success of the adoption of the ITIL framework in the workplace. I’ve often said that “you don’t need a degree in ITIL to follow processes”. By that I mean that if processes are crafted well enough, then most staff on the ground simply need to be trained in the specific processes relevant to their job.

Senior managers have attained ITIL qualifications (typically v2 Managers) and returned to their organisations with the mission of crafting processes for their organisation and adopting the best practice framework. Some have succeeded, some have not. And that has set me thinking about why this should be.

The most defining characteristic of those with a high success rate can be summed up in one word: “belief”.

Organisations achieve best practice when a culture change takes place and the team develops a common belief that processes are there to help; that better services are best provided when everyone can rely on everyone else to do their bit to the right quality.

I am reminded of the story of a visiting dignitary who visited Mission Control at NASA. A keen gardner himself, he approached a man tending the flower beds and asked what he was doing. The man mopped his forehead and replied simply: “I’m working to put a man on the moon”. That clarity of purpose was perhaps the most single factor in the success of the US space programme in the sixties and seventies.

Not all staff working in the IT service management areas need to be qualified ITIL experts but they do need to be experts in their organisations reason for being – seized of the organisation’s mission and objectives. They need to understand: why they are there; and to appreciate that their contribution is important to the overall success of the organisation.

They need to feel that they belong; that their ideas and opinions count. Good ITIL managers are first and foremost good managers. Without the inspiration and motivation, ITIL processes will gather dust on a shelf somewhere. It is the charisma, belief and vision of good managers that makes the difference.

Stuart Sawle

Scary Thoughts on Energy

I put my Green IT hat on and went to a meeting in London this week to learn more about the Carbon Management Association. Our host was Lord Redesdale a Lib-Dem Peer and former spokesman on Energy.

Lord Redesdale opened the meeting with a startling government projection. The government estimates that UK will need around 30-35GW of new electricity generation capacity over the next two decades as many of the UK’s current coal and nuclear power stations, built in the 1960s and 1970s, reach the end of their lives and are set to close.
He went onto highlight a number of specific concerns for anyone engaged in IT Management.

The first is that there will be insufficient energy available to satisfy peak demand from 2015 onwards. The second related is that the price of energy is set to rise even more sharply than it has so far as the combined effects of the Climate Change Levy and the underlying increase in cost of energy continues. His third point is that IT infrastructure continues to expand massively and is set to consume around 10% of the UK electricity supply if it doesn’t do so already!

A study from IT services supplier Computacenter and Fujitsu Siemens Computers, for example, shows that the UK’s top 200 listed companies waste more than £61m in electricity a year by not maximising the energy efficiency of their desktop computers. With the IT industry accounting for more carbon emissions than the airline industry our appetite for energy seems almost insatiable.

In these circumstances is it not incredible that IT Managers are rarely held accountable for the energy cost of the IT deployed to support the business. Sure, many have implemented power-management software on desk-top PC’s, but this is rarely ever part of a coherent energy management strategy.

There is a real need to extend the education of IT professionals to include energy management as part of their responsibilities. The ISEB Foundation Course in Green IT is a significant first step but more, much more needs to be done, urgently.

Stuart Sawle                 

Formulating a Strategy, Setting Objectives

Lately, I’ve been involved with a committee that’s been developing a three year strategy. They’re not ITIL people. Many are not managers at all. Their stated objective was to develop a strategy that was “aspirational”. They argued that without aspirational objectives the strategy would not be challenging enough in today’s tough climate.

This set me thinking.

I agreed entirely with their sentiments but I was concerned they would fail because the objectives / goals they were setting were not SMART. By that I mean they needed to be:

• Specific
• Measurable
• Achievable (Attainable)
• Relevant
• Time Bound

Setting a challenging goal can sound quite specific (e.g. reduce expenditure by 75%, increase profits by 50%) but without any hint / outline of how this is to be achieved it fails the “Achievable” criterion. When the goal stretches beyond what is possible it fails the “attainable” criterion.

What we need to do is to take each of the goals we set ourselves and break them down into lower-level SMART objectives that, much more specifically, state what is to be done, by whom and by when and how this is to be achieved – the road map if you like.

A specific goal will usually answer the five “W” questions:

  • What: What do I want to accomplish?
  • Why: Specific reasons, purpose or benefits of accomplishing the goal.
  • Who: Who is involved?
  • Where: Identify a location?
  • Which: Identify requirements and constraints.

The Achievability term stresses the importance of setting goals that are realistic and attainable. While an attainable goal may stretch a team in order to achieve it, the goal should not be extreme. That is, the goals are neither out of reach nor below standard performance, as these may be considered meaningless.

When you identify the goals that are the most important to you, you begin to figure out ways you can make them come true. You develop the attitudes, abilities, skills, and financial capacity to reach them. Attainable goals encourage goal-setters to identify previously overlooked opportunities that will bring them closer to the achievement of their objectives.

Stuart Sawle     

Selling Change to the Team

Isn’t it amazing how we can use a simple phrase that would actually lead to our undoing – making it difficult, if not impossible, to actually achieve what we intend.

If your approach is to “sell” the idea of change to the team they will see right through you. The change becomes more about what you want; change is being imposed; those whose co-operation you seek will react with the smile that says “yes boss, no chance”. And that’s the best you can hope for – the more recalcitrant ones will actively work against you.
Change needs to be managed, people need to be understood and involved.

I well remember a reorganisation at Woolworth’s when a manager, I regarded as a fool, was appointed as my boss. He took the trouble to have a face to face chat with me. He allowed me to express my fears and concerns. He listened to me and sought to find ways in which we could work together. It worked. Not only did we develop a fruitful, purposeful relationship – we became firm friends and still are – some 30 years later. He even acted on some of my advice to downplay some of his traits that led people like me to dismiss him as fool!

If you think a change is needed quickly, take time out to assess whether the drivers are really that urgent. We can be so go-minded that we can overlook this simple check. Consider would a more relaxed time-frame still achieve your objectives? Would taking a little more time to consult and truly involve those affected make your decision more acceptable? Would the ideas and discussions allow you to improve the quality of the change?

As a senior manager you probably relish change and thrive on it. Be aware that the chief insecurity of most staff is change itself. Their first reaction will be to feel threatened.

Remember, like grief, there is a series of stages that people go through before they become accepting of change. From suspicion, through curiosity, to visualisation, acceptance and finally commitment, your team members need to be allowed the time, and your time, to explore, understand and respond.

Stuart Sawle