ITIL the cult

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We have seen that the ITIL movement has distinct overtones of a fad. What about a cult? A group that defines its own measure of good and bad by comparing against its own internal reference books then declares that those books hold the key to getting from bad to good sounds mighty like a cult to me.

A colleague gave me a model that I shall call the Skeptical Maturity Model for Technology Adoption. It has four phases

  • Idea
  • Product
  • Wave
  • Religion

His central tenet of course is that as a new innovation moves up the Gartner hype cycle, objectivity goes out the window. That is the central tenet of this blog too.

There ought to be a fifth exit phase to that model. What would it be? [Comments invited]. Disillusionment? Obscurity? Yet another technology layer?

So is ITIL becoming a religion, or at least a cult? Consider this:

What defines “bad” process that “needs” ITIL? Getting a low score on a CMM-like maturity model.
What is that model benchmarked against? The ITIL definition.
Who defines the model and then measures it? The consultants who stand to profit from “fixing” the processes.

Kind of circular reasoning don’t you think?

What if we measured existing processes against assessable metrics on usefulness to the business or value returned on investment or quality, or whatever the organisation cares about? We might find the existing processes don’t fit the ITIL model but they work (more on that another day). That is, we might find there is no business case for changing [See? there is a common thread through this blog]

Anyone who has been accosted in the street and offered a personality reading by the nutters-who-shall-remain-nameless-because-they-play-too-rough knows the trap that is being set here. Tell someone they are broken and then offer the secret to fixing it.

A group that defines its own measure of good and bad by comparing against its own internal reference books then declares that those books hold the key to getting from bad to good sounds mighty like a cult to me.

The first step to reforming is often ITIL awareness training, for if they wallow in ignorance they cannot be saved. Never mind what they call their processes now; they have to know to call them the one true process. “Because you are ignorant of my framework, that makes you ignorant”.

The next step is executive sponsorship. First rule of missionaries: if you want to convert the populace, try to convert their ruler.

Then we have to work out how to effect cultural change, which is a nice name for overcoming resistance. In a recent survey “72 percent claim the biggest barrier to ITIL adoption in their business is organizational resistance.” Well, hello. What makes you right and them wrong? Several billion people find it disgusting to blow one’s nose then store it in one's pocket.

OK, much of this is overstated and deliberately provocative.

“You made that up”. “That doesn’t make it wrong”.
Scott Adams (Dilbert).

But the ITIL community should beware the onset of cultish behaviour. It is especially prevalent in the born-again ITILists. Who has encountered the happy-clappy evangelical zeal of those who have been freshly sheep-dipped? [sheep-dipping = ITIL Foundations training] The Skeptic admits guilt on that one.

The more mature practitioners tend to get it bashed out of them by reality. The very experienced original authors of ITIL knew this when they made “adopt and adapt” a basic principle (the one completely omitted from ISO20000 – there is a topic for another day).

So, four recommendations:
1) Try to measure your organisation against something other than the proposed solution.
2) Don’t let anyone get righteous with you (“I have far more experience of ITIL”, “I’m an ITIL Master”, “You weren’t on the training”).
3) Don’t be fastidious about ritual compliance (“cleanliness”).
4) And most of all: reject any absolutist position (“We do it the way the book says, period.”)

“Doubt is not a very agreeable state but certainty is a ridiculous one”


Thank God

I am not alone !!!

Skeptical Maturity Model

I have a suggestion for the fifth phase - Backlash. This blog would fit neatly into this phase....after that who knows? Ridicule? Replacment!?

We could look to some sort of Continuous Hype Improvement Process (CHIP) - sustaining ITIL through a never ending series of refreshes and book reissues.....

Linky love

Excellent. I blogged it.

Man I thought I was bombastic

...but Colin you have me beat! Great blog, even if I only understand some of it.

I love "Engineering as buzz marketing tool". Thanks for that. I'll credit you the first three times I use it :-D

Continuous Hype Improvement Process

Haha LOL Very good, I like it.

Actually the reality of most hype cycles is that the phenomenon in question settles down to a sedate middle age and eventually fades away from view (but in IT things seldom becomes obsolete, just another layer of complexity to be paid for and managed), while a new kid in town takes all the focus and glory.

While the inner workings of ITIL are not the focus of this blog, (the external effects are), I may take a tilt at ITIL Refresh one day...

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