MythBusters: ITIL Edition


I’ve heard a lot of negative talk about ITIL over the years. Some say they tried it, it doesn’t work and it should die. Some say they tried to implement it, it didn’t work, and it should die. And some just say it should just die.

In ITIL, Change Management, Training

Trying to Get People in Your Organization to Change? Focus on These Two Things.

Just like in our personal lives, we are constantly trying (and failing) to get people to change at work. We manage up, sideways, and any which way we can, yet we often get nowhere. Should this really surprise us, though? I have a hard enough time getting myself and my family to change -  why would it be any different when asking dozens, hundreds, thousands, or more to do the same? In working with organizations both large and small, I’ve seen very few companies find success in getting people to change. In the successful cases, however, I noticed two common themes. Take them, run with them, and help yourself and others begin to change.

NOTE: If you're looking for insight into a more formal Change Management process, this is not the article for you.
Head on over here for that.

Don’t overcomplicate the matter.

When we ask people to change, we sometimes overwhelm them by overcomplicating the matter. Take the analogy of getting in shape: At some point, something we see in the mirror finally makes us say, “Enough is enough, self! I’m going to change.” You then proceed, if you’re anything like me, to attempt fixing everything at once. “I have to work out 100 times a week, only eat farm fresh fruits and vegetables, and give up caffeine!” Then roughly five minutes into the day you’re exhausted and kicking yourself. Don’t do this. Instead, pick one thing you will either start doing or stop doing. Keep it simple. If you can’t explain it in a short sentence, you’re making it too complicated.

Keith Ferrazzi (of whom I’m a not-small fan) has a piece in the Harvard Business Review that I absolutely love about making small changes for a big impact. In the piece, titled  Managing Change, One Day at a Time, he uses himself as an example by making a simple change to his daily routine: He stopped putting cream and sugar in his coffee each morning. That one seemingly small change in behavior caused him to make better decisions around his diet the remainder of the day. This exact same idea holds true at work.

Pick a simple change you would like people in your organization to adopt. Think of it as an easy lever that can move something really large. Maybe for your organization it’s the fact that folks don’t share their knowledge . In that case, a simple message like this can do the trick: “Hey people, if you find you’re doing things more than once, take a minute, write it down (or even better, record a quick video – tools like Camtasia rule for stuff like this), and get some of that knowledge out of your head. That way, you won’t have to keep answering the same questions, and you’ll contribute to the knowledge of the organization.” You can further simplify the message to something like, “Goal: Create one piece of knowledge each week.” Do make sure to communicate the why this is super important for yourselves and others in your message. Also, don’t forget to reward people like crazy when they do what you ask of them. Everyone loves an “‘Atta human!” every once and again.

Deliver your message 1,000 times. Then 400 more times.

So, you’ve got the one simple and amazing thing you want people to do? Great! Now, go forth and communicate it constantly and creatively. After you’ve done that, communicate it in 50 more creative, unexpected ways. Depending on your company culture, something like jumping out from behind potted plants with your message may or may not be appropriate. That particular approach has worked like a charm at BEYOND20, by the way. We’re a weird bunch.

Each of us is bombarded with a monsoon of emails and ads from sun-up to sundown every day. This monsoon - comprised of things like meetings, deadlines, cat videos, etc. - is now competition for your Simple And Amazing Thing You’re Now Doing, or SAATYND (catchy, no?). You’ve gotta get ahead of the noise and present your idea in a memorable, attention-grabbing, fun way.

Most organizations aren’t great at this. Something I encounter far too often when conducting on-site training or strategic planning, for example, is the following conversation:

Me : So, is your organization doing X?
90% of people in the room: Nope.
10% of people in the room: Tell me you’re kidding. How do you not know we do that? We’ve been doing it for the past year.

Leaders who observe interactions like these are always shocked by how few people in their organization don’t have a clue about some SAATYNDs. Usually, this gap in knowledge forms when the SAATYND was communicated once, lost to the deluge of other very important things folks have to get done. This scenario can also play out when word of the SAATYND isn’t consistently spread to new employees as they come on board. We tend to make the assumption that everyone knows the SAATYND, but the harsh reality is that they do not. Either way, the best thing you can do is assume someone, somewhere in your company doesn’t know about the SAATYND and take it upon yourself to ensure they get the message. Make it simple, make it consistent, and make it stand out.

Remember, no one will do the SAATYND if they don’t know the SAATYND exists. So, like they teach in Sunday school, don’t hide your light under a bush (oh, no!). Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Need help getting your teams, departments, and/or organization to change?  Request a free, 30-minute consultation with one of our experts here.
In Leadership, Change Management

How to Roll Out Change Management Without Drawing an Angry Mob

Many times, changes can be extremely helpful to an organization (for example, we need to implement a fix or patch, release a new application, etc.). Being able to make changes – and lots of them – quickly allows us to be an agile and responsible organization. However, when we change stuff, sometimes we break stuff. And that stuff can be pretty important. That’s why it’s so important to have a solid Change Management process in place. If your current organization does not have a good way of managing change, then rolling out a process to better manage changes can bring people who are otherwise used to making changes to their own stuff out of the shadows with pitchforks and torches. Here are some things to keep in mind if you are rolling out a new Change Management process and want to avoid a bit of the backlash.

Clearly define the scope of the process.

Not every single change needs to go through the Change Management process. Your goal should not be to bring everything to an immediate halt (that’s when people start looking for their torches). Only very important systems and services as well as items that have an impact on other groups should fall under the Change Management process - at least to start. To better understand what these items are, have a discussion with key members of the organization on the types of changes that need to be tracked and approved prior to making a change (think about those changes that have been the most visibly painful for the organization in the past and start there).

You will also want to discuss under what criteria you will require customers or vendors to follow the process. It’s ok to not capture every single change. Focus on the really important stuff first, and start simple if you have to. You can always add to the scope and overall process later. Document and communicate the scope of the process to everyone in IT as well as to customers and vendors. It’s helpful to ensure that everyone is clear on what constitutes a formal change and what does not.

Don’t treat all changes the same.

Not all changes are created equal, and in this case, one size definitely does not fit all. Very large, complex, costly, or risky changes should follow a separate, more robust process than those changes that are very simple and pose little threat to the environment. Make sure that the overall process and steps people have to go through are scaled accordingly. For the simple stuff, come up with a list (these are called Standard Changes. Here is a good article on how to define these types of changes).

Look at each of the steps along the way – the Request for Change form, the amount of approvals, the documentation you ask people to submit, etc. – and make sure it’s reasonable for the type of change that is being requested. If the process is too bureaucratic, particularly for the simple changes, people will go around the process, and you end up losing all value of the Change Management process in the first place (see a similar article I wrote on how to create or fix your Change Management process).

Hold people accountable.

Make sure you train everyone that will be submitting changes, so they fully understand the process; and make sure to communicate the importance of following the process. For Change Management to be effective and give you the benefit you want, everyone has to follow the process. That does not mean everyone except a Vice President and his or her team. It really does mean everyone. Leadership and customers have to buy into the importance of following the process, and the organization needs to set policy in place to hold everyone accountable. You may provide a short grace period while the process is still new. You may also decide to give people one warning, but if you don’t enforce real consequences to people that continue to go around the process, people will do it on a “best efforts” basis (AKA go around it). Hold people accountable and mean it. You must have a “zero tolerance” culture in order for this process to work well. And when it does, it’s pretty great.

What do you think? Have you rolled out a brand new Change Management process? Any great lessons you have learned in doing so?

In Change Management

You're Doing it Wrong: Change Management Edition

The great irony of the Change Management process is that, once in place, it rarely changes. It should. All processes should be periodically assessed to determine what’s working and what isn’t – then updated accordingly. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told during consulting engagements that organizations: 

1. Don’t have a Change Management process at all, or 2. Have one, but it’s a clunky, bureaucratic mess.

In ITIL, ITSM, Change Management

Can ITSM Save 9-1-1's Disjointed Call Center Problem

The implications of having disaggregated 911 call centers in this country is apparent. John Oliver featured the issue several weeks ago on Last Week Tonight, after which I did a little research of my own to see if I could learn more. In doing so, I realized there were people all over the country who’d had these terrible 911 call experiences. I am one of them – in our nation’s capital, no less.

In Demand Management, Change Management

Don't Save Change for Last

As service organizations mature, and Incident and Service Request Management start to jell, executive management begins to get very interested in Service Asset and Configuration Management.  And this is a very good thing.  Knowing what assets we have and can provide service for is a powerful thing.  It can drive increased budgets and resource allocation for IT, especially when we can point directly to how much time our staff spend on various CIs that might be obsolete or completely unused.  If any of us look around, I'm sure we could find a lot of servers doing very little, if any work, but because of their age they require a great deal of resources to keep them "green" on our Event Monitors.

In ITIL, Process Improvement, Service Desk, Configuration Management, Change Management, CSI

Does Your Service Desk Know What Changed Last Night

In my career I have held almost every position in IT Service Operations one might imagine.  I have been a 1st level tech, operations manager, system engineer, even acted as a data center operations manager.  I have also seen the consequences of poor communication within IT Operations.  Service Transition without the hand-off is a major contributor to unplanned outages and confusion, which leads both IT and Business Management to lose faith in the efforts put forth by their technical staff.

In ITIL, ITSM, Process Improvement, Problem Management, Service Desk, Configuration Management, Change Management

Finding ROI in a Configuration Management Database (Part 1)

 Part 1 of a 5 part series 

This is a 5 part blog series discussing the value to the business that can be found within a quality, well-maintained Configuration Management Database.

In ITIL, Process Improvement, Problem Management, Asset, Incident Management, Configuration Management, CMDB, CMS, Change Management

Better ITIL Change Management with Standard Changes

The importance of Change Management within an IT Service Provider is generally well understood. The need to document, evaluate, approve, schedule, and ultimately govern changes to services or IT Infrastructure is well documented. Generic process flow templates are widely available, a wide variety of suitable tools exist to support the process. So, why do so many organizations still struggle with this?

In ITIL, Process Improvement, Change Management