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

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



Gaining Commitment – The Service Management Challenge

Long lasting relationships often come about by accident. Such is the case with Kate Peacock. (More Information) Kate is one of our associate trainers and she and her husband Miles support us with the cultural and management training that is so crucial to the successful implementation of IT service management.

I first met Kate when I engaged her company to carry out some training for the Sysop team itself.

Kate reminded us, first of all, just how much experience there was in the room – the collective experience of the Sysop team was and is pretty impressive. She then went on to demonstrate to us that even the most daunting tasks could be accomplished if one were properly aware of how it should be done and, importantly, if we had self-belief!

Her challenge was to get us to memorise 20 random items and to be able to recall them in sequence and on demand. In just a few minutes the entire team achieved this seemingly impossible task with ease – in fact, many years later, most of us can still remember many, if not all, of the items Kate gave us. At the end of the training session, the whole team was buzzing. We were inspired – confident that we could achieve anything. That’s when Kate delivered the most important lesson of all . . . .

Kate lit a candle and set it on the table at the front of the room. Our challenge was to focus our minds on the candle and extinguish it using the power of thought alone!
Up for the challenge, the team directed its total thought energy at that candle. It flickered. It fluttered. It wavered. It burnt fitfully but it did not go out – failure!

Then Kate stepped forward and pinched the wick. The flame went out.

The lesson, of course, is that you can think and plan as much as you want but if you want to achieve anything you have to get off your backside and do something.

So it is with IT service management. So many service management professionals return to their workplace fired up with the enthusiasm for ITIL® only to be frustrated by the difficulties of persuading colleagues and senior management to act together to deliver best practice.

Carrying the burden of changing people’s attitudes alone is a heavy one indeed. That’s why we almost always recommend a series of workshops at the start of a project to make sure everyone is on the same page, that pain points are brought out into the open, priorities are set and the quick-wins are identified so that progress can be made visibly – swiftly building momentum and winning management commitment.

Kate and Miles continue to support our management and cultural offerings. More information can be foundhere:

Merry Christmas and a happy and Prosperous New Year.

Stuart Sawle