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

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    

Managing the Motivation of an IT Team

Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity. General George S. Patton

IT staff are valuable company resources because of their unique specialist skills, knowledge and experience.

They are a challenge to lead because: they are very intelligent and highly individual; and also because they are often involved in complex projects where they may have to work in isolation using considerable delegated discretion.

Most IT specialists will tell you that they prefer to be left alone to get on with the job. Nevertheless, like everyone else they do need to be given feedback, told when they’re doing a good job, corrected when they’re not. Providing feedback is particularly difficult when a goodly proportion of their time is spent working at home – out of the normal cycle of intra-office communication and observation.

Maintaining IT staff motivation is a crucial element in the success of a project. Knowing when to delegate and how to review is a key factor in achieving motivation.

If you are to do this well, and it does need doing well, you need to very aware of your own skills and abilities. You need to identify your management style and understand:

• The theory of motivation.
• How to delegate successfully.
• How to understand yourself and others – what drives you, what drives them?
• Why values are important and how to use them.
• How to communicate effectively with your team.
• How to build on-going fruitful relationships.

I’ve blogged before about the lack of management training that we IT professionals undertake. Here is a starting point – an opportunity to develop and deploy a very valuable set of skills that will help you, your organisation and your team members.

Stuart Sawle