Real ITIL training

The ITIL training industry is geared up to produce standardised certified theoretical courses. We've seen a lot of simulation games added to the mix to try to make the training a bit more practical but it is still nowhere near what I would call real ITIL training.

In a post some time ago, Will Edwards said

With the new ITIL V3 Intermediate Level courses - and exams for that matter - the focus is meant to take students away from simply regurgitating knowledge to demonstrating understanding and application of the subject matter.

For the intermediate qualification level ... correspond with Bloom's Levels 3 and 4 of the Taxonomy

Bloom's Taxonomy

1. Knowledge
2. Comprehension
3. Application
4. Analysis
5. Synthesis
6. Evaluation

So the big challenge for educators is: exactly how to Ascend the Taxonomy...

"Challenge" is right. How can you test Application and Analysis with a multichoice exam? Let's consider "Application". As my book Owning ITIL says...

The ITIL sheep-dip (Foundation training) is not enough. Often it is too much, meaning most people don’t actually need it, they need something else. They need training but not in the theory of ITIL. They need training in how it is going to work applied to their jobs; what they need to do differently, what they own, what they are measured on. That is real ITIL training and it is rare as hens’ teeth.

If Application is all about the ability to put learned theory into the context of a real situation it's hard to imagine how you can assess that in a closed room.

Looked at another way, consider this post just the other day from Pink President David Ratcliffe

When a concept is simple to grasp then I believe there’s a greater likelihood it will be embraced.

One such example is the Kirkpatrick Model for evaluating training programs. How can you argue with this:

A “Level 1” learning experience is where the student REACTS positively to training.

A “Level 2” learning experience is where the student actually ACQUIRES new knowledge or skills.

A “Level 3” learning experience is where the student actually goes back to work and CHANGES their behaviour.

A “Level 4” learning experience is where the student’s new behaviour IMPACTS the business in a positive and measurable way.

Here at Pink we’re undertaking a review of all of our education products to ensure we go beyond levels 1 & 2.

How does one ASSESS the trainee and EVALUATE the trainer in the context of Levels 3 and 4? Even when I worked in the same company as my trainees I found that challenging.

So I think the Kirkpatrick model is useful for evaluating one’s attitude and approach to delivering training - as Pink is doing - but it is hard to measure the results.

One thing that the Kirkpatrick Model points us to is that you get to Level 3 and 4 - of both Kirkpatrick's and Bloom's models - more readily when the learning - especially experiential learning - is customised to the function and practices of the trainee(s). In other words, training should be about how you will use ITSM in the context of your job to achieve your goals.

The best way to achieve real results is for training to be customised to the needs and situation of the trainees, and to include onsite coaching, support, follow-up, feedback and refreshers. The trainers who are binder-chuckers (delivering a standard theoretical set of slides and then abandoning trainees to their fate) are unlikely to achieve levels 3 and 4, and wouldn’t know if they did.

Sadly, real training costs much more. It needs to be sold as consulting not training. It will never compete with the ticket-sellers. And too many bosses don’t understand the difference between an employee with a ticket and an employee who has learned and assimilated.

But if we could get to there, that would be what I call real ITIL training.


Real ITIL Training


All excellent points and something we are in the process of doing with Fortune 50 company. We first built the training plan using the IT transformation education roadmap (ITER) based on a modified Kotters 8 step change management model (see below). More information can be found at our web site (bottom of home page)

The five phases of ITER are:

1.Awareness - Introducing the concepts of ITSM & ITIL to the leadership team and stakeholders
2.Commitment - Selecting a team to create the plan & vision then training them to become the evangelists
3.Conditioning - Getting IT and the lines of business ready for IT transformation
4.Empowering - Empowering and rewarding those who have embraced the vision with advanced training & certification
5.Institutionalization - Establish new ITSM HR policies in the areas of recognition, rewards, hiring, promotions & role-based career development


Rote learning

We ran 2 x 2-day Foundation v3 courses to train about 14 people at our organisation.

It was 2 dates of full on rote-learning and a sheep-dip indeed. Everyone passed the ITIL Foundation exam on first attempt. It wasn't useless in that people became familiar with ITIL terminologies, but I wonder how many took much away from the course and had any understanding of how their job role actually fit ITIL and what needed to be done. Precious few I wager.

It just seemed we were making up the numbers for our national organisation and for management to proclaim that "We'd done it".

Or even get back to there

The Kirkpatrick model harks back to what we were trying to achieve in the early days of ITIL v1 training. The move away from it was driven by the perceived need to service a rapidly growing marketplace. Whilst I regret that, I don't doubt that the early model would have floundered under sheer weight of numbers. It isn't just the expense of running such courses, it is also the limited number of trainers with the right experience to pass on skills and work with trainees from disparate backgrounds whilst retaining relevance. The exams, or other assessment tools, also need more effort to maintain them and make them relevant. The best consultants do, of course, genuinely try and deliver skills transfer, and I've always had a preference for consultants who can train, and trainers who can consult.

Another element in this is that I think few of us are naive enough now to equate ITIL with all of ITSM.

Perhaps it really is time for the management schools and other such bodies to take the lead?

James Finister

how can a classroom get closer

I'd like to see generalised ITSM theory taught in tertiary institutions, yes. But I think that's something different. That's train the trainer or general knowledge for the professional.

the training I'm talking about is for practitioners of ITSM, the ones managing and executing the "processes", the practices of ITSM. Those people need training in how to do their job, and that needs to be relevant and in context to the individual's job. That's hard to do in a classroom. Not impossible but hard. it's certainly nothing like what most ITIL V3 students get at any level.

I think the best on-the-job ITSM training comes from a consultant who designed the job :) We can customise the training to the exact circumstances of the trainee, teaching a mix of relevant theory and actual procedures. That's the perfect world. Now how can a classroom get closer to that?

Somebody elses problem

It would help, I suspect, if we had a better structure to the qualifications that was focussed primarily on the target demographic. The manager's certificate was originally just that, at a time when managers were very much in the minority in IT. The foundation certificate was intended to be little more than an awareness course for those impacted by what the managers were up to. OK, we've all seen hardened techies do their best to sabotage a manager's course, and even more commonly we've seen managers believe a foundation course has equipped them to be an instant expert on ITSM. It is the practitioner layer that I've aways struggled with. It never seems to have been aimed at a clear audience, and the structure has never really reflected real life jobs.

What strikes me when I compare my time in audit training in the early years of my career with the current state of ITSM training is how involved the trainee's organisations were in their training and development, and as training providers we had an expectation, that was almost always met, that the trainees would be mentored, put on appropriate assignments, and assessed on the job. No one expected the trainers to do everything.

James Finister

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