Don’t point that finger at me!

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There are a few life-lessons I’ve learned that I can happily attribute to my mother.  I’m sure many of you have some life-lessons and words of wisdom that you can chalk up to your mother as well.  Nuggets like “you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression”.  Indeed!  How about “to make a great omelet, you have to break a few eggs “?  Spot-on.

Here’s one that applies to ITSM.  “Be careful when you point a finger at someone….there are always three fingers pointing back at you.” Well, now…there’s something to think about.

Over the years, I’ve gotten into more than a few conversations about how to make ITSM “stick”.   I don’t know what it is about us IT types….we often seem to think in absolute terms.   It’s either “on” or “off”.  It’s either “black” or “white”….there doesn’t seem to be room for the “gray”.

And while I fully agree that successful ITSM implementations feature clearly defined and “lived” roles and responsibilities, I sometimes run into a perception that ITSM is about “penalty” or “punishment”.    I’ve heard things like “they didn’t follow the process”.  Who is “they”?  Don’t we all work for the same organization?  Isn’t “they” really “us”?   Or “we met the terms of our SLA”.  Sure “we” did.  But when was the last time “we” did a Service Level Review with the customer to ensure that the terms of the SLA were still relevant?  Did “we” develop SLAs that actually have customer signatures, or did “we” document a set of objectives that were decided and agreed upon within IT?  Besides, SLAs are not sticks that are to be used to hit customers over their collective heads, nor are SLAs intended to sit on shelves collecting dust, referenced only when it’s convenient for us.

ITSM is not supposed to be painful nor is ITSM about punishment or blame.  ITSM is about consistency and repeatability, driving effectiveness and efficiency.  Good ITSM is a result of good planning and good execution of that good plan.  ITSM is about continual improvement.  ITSM is about people and being inclusive of people, not segregating people.  It’s not about a number of ITSM-certified folks deciding what’s best for other IT people.  It’s not about just IT people thinking about what is best for the business.  ITSM is about collaboration between the business and IT and moving forward in a planned and agreed way, with shared goals, working to ensure optimal delivery and support of services with acceptable levels of risk at the best cost.

So if and when ITSM isn’t working as expected, don’t point fingers.   I’d like to suggest that you ask the following questions to get to ‘why’:

  • Have you educated your organization about the goals, objectives, and business benefits of the ITSM implementation?

How will ITSM improve what the business does?  How will it improve working both with IT and within IT?  What does “success” look like?  Understanding and educating the organization about the goals of the ITSM implementation, how the implementation of ITSM will enable outcomes needed by the organization, and how ITSM will contribute to business success will help everyone understand why we’re doing ITSM…which will help ITSM ‘stick’.

  • Have you documented your processes? Is your documentation ‘consumable’?

If you’ve not documented your processes, quite frankly, they don’t exist.  No one can say what you were thinking when you designed the process, but put it in writing and everyone can read, discuss, and internalize the process.  Also, be sure that your documentation is ‘consumable’.  What I mean by that is documentation should be easy to read and follow a consistent approach to documentation so the reader knows what to expect when reading the document.  Personally, I’m a big fan of concise, focused documentation – for example, a Policy document should talk just about the policy, rationale, benefits and consequences.  It shouldn’t discuss procedures, roles, etc.; those are subjects for a different document.  Likewise, when I read the procedure document, I can quickly read what needs to be done and how to do it.   I like bite-sized documentation chunks that I can quickly read, understand, and apply.

  • Have you clearly defined roles and responsibilities? Do process actors understand their roles and responsibilities?

People generally perform better when they understand what is expected of them.  People are critical for successful processes – processes will not work without people.  Executing formally designed and on-going training, communication and awareness plans are critical for winning the hearts and minds of those you depend upon for a successful process – the people that interact with it.

  • Have you made your processes effective, yet as simple as possible?

ITSM is not about who can devise the most complex or intricate processes.  While there may be situations that require a high degree of complexity, generally speaking, simpler is better.  The simpler the process, the easier the process will be do it.  The easier the process is to do, the higher the probability for success.

  • Have you clearly defined and published meaningful measures for your ITSM implementation? Do you celebrate those measurable successes? Do you take and publicize actions when those measures indicate opportunity for improvement?

Without measures, ITSM programs will become invisible quickly.  Having and publicizing measures lets everyone know how ITSM is going, and the visibility of those measures will also help make it “stick”.   Having measures that are relevant and meaningful to the business are even better.  Yes, it is important to understand how many Incidents you had this month.  However, it’s more meaningful to the business if your measures illustrate that because of effective Incident Management, the business was able to meet or exceed its widget production goal for the seventh consecutive month!

Remember, when it comes to an ITSM implementation within an organization, we’re all on the same team.  Finger-pointing won’t help.  Getting to the ‘why’ will help make ITSM ‘stick’.

Has your ITSM implementation not delivered what you were hoping for?  Let Tedder Consulting help with workshops or consulting services that will stop the finger-pointing and deliver success.

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