Fix change not ITIL

Fix the way we change ITSM behaviours, not the models of that behaviour. ITIL is near enough.

Hot on the heels of SMcongress we have the Taking Service Forward initiative. (Whether the group like it or not it will be widely seen as "the Axelos Initiative" thanks to Axelos funding and hosting the first session.)

Whilst the initiative is useful, I suspect - without having really studied the first draft - that it is not what we really need. Certainly it models attitudes, behaviour, culture, capabilities etc. But as entities in a model, not techniques for modifying them.

I really believe the ITSM philosopher community is suffering from cognitive state capture. For all our protestations about having to move forward, we are stuck in the mindset of the past. We've been thrashing ITSM models for years. Sure they are not perfect but it is Excessive Technical Fastidiousness to be concerned about further refining the best practice models when we have more serious problems. It is certainly part of Axelos's role to continually improve their commercial product and I'm glad they are. But it won't cure ITSM because it is not the best practice "process" model that is the most broken part - it is not particularly broken at all. Oh sure, I'm the first to get involved in debating the content of ITIL, and there is a place for continual improvement of it, as with anything. And it's fun.

The failure of ITSM to be adopted and actually work is not a failure of the model. The ideas are sound and described well enough (in ITIL and other bodies of knowledge). The ITSM community is exhibiting the typical IT obsession with The Thing. Technical people always think the solution to a problem is an object not an activity. "A better model will fix it." No it won't. ITIL works in some organisations and not in others. It's not the model that fails. Refining the ITIL model is now a background activity, not our top priority for getting better at ITSM.

    We need to settle for good enough and move on to the next level of maturity and the higher challenge now facing us: getting that model adopted and embedded. We need a better way to apply the model in order to achieve and retain the desired outcome - and a better attitude towards IT and within IT to empower and support us to make ITSM happen. It is not what ITSM looks like that is our burning issue, it is how to make ITSM improvement happen.

The practices and techniques do exist for changing behaviour, for getting an organisation to adopt new practices. "Practice practices" as it were, meta-practices, practices about creating practices. But I'm not aware of a body of knowledge that systematically assembles them and structures them. Karen Ferris' Balanced Diversity is well on the way to it though. It is progress, it is the future. This is where we should be directing all this passionate energy, yet most ITSMers don't get it, and don't even know Karen's work exists. We remain bogged down in "how can we make ITIL better" or "what can we replace ITIL with". It doesn't matter whether it is ITIL, Agile, Lean, DevOps etc they don't work if they aren't absorbed by the team, and they are a waste if effort if they don't stick.

I am collecting photos of dead Kanban boards, faded incident flowcharts, and dusty change binders. I'm a process archaeologist. All the wild enthusiasms for DevOps engendered by The Phoenix Project will only result in more ruins and relics in years to come because we suck at making real behavioural change. The TSF ITSM model will be no more successful than ITIL (i.e. sometimes).

If you really want to make a difference to IT, fix that.

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