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Why Service Management Initiatives Get Stuck (Part 1 of 2)

Robert den Broeder / 17 June 2014

Why Service Management Initiatives Get Stuck 2

Just about every professional IT service organization has adopted a best practice or a framework with the intention of structuring processes and professionalizing their way of working. The most popular choices are service management that uses ITIL® and project management that uses Agile and SCRUM. Usually, adopting and implementing them is a lengthy and costly endeavor. Reasons to start are obvious and they include improved quality of service, transparency and reduction of costs, improved communication and, of course, customer focus. Though well intended, the big issue is that these initiatives fail to deliver the results promised. Why is that?

Training, Certification, Gaming…

Quality of IT service is often still inadequate and many IT projects don’t deliver in terms of time, budget and quality. This is remarkable! Despite the economic crisis, companies invest heavily in training and certifying their employees. In theory, all employees have the required knowledge and skills about the frameworks. However, this has not yet solved the problems described and so it seems that spending money on framework training only increases costs.

A confrontational “test” is playing a business simulation like the “Apollo 13 – an ITSM experience™” Simulations show how hard it is for certified IT personnel to apply the best practices to a specific case. Facts and figures collected by GamingWorks speaks volumes. And having certified employees is by no means a guarantee for better quality of service to your customers.

Blame the Framework? Or, Fix the Problem.

The first course of action is to review the structures introduced by the best practice. Revisions to Process documentation, awareness sessions, presentations and workshops are organized to convince everyone that the best practice is the best way to go forward. Tools are purchased and customized. Everything is done to facilitate that the employees are able to work as agreed within the boundaries set by the best practice. Again, this requires a lot of time and money, while the work pressure builds up. Especially, management seems to suffer from this effect, while the intention was to reduce just that! The worst part of it all? That all the extra effort still does not lead to better service and improved customer satisfaction.

Somehow, there always seems to be a good excuse for people to bypass the best practice. Slowly, but surely, the feeling emerges that adopting and implementing this best practice was not such a good idea after all… and a waste of money. Maybe a different best practice is required?

Business Is Behavior

The good news is that the best practice itself is not the problem. It’s all about behavior. People manage to show unwanted behavior, which costs money, wastes precious time, jeopardizes levels of service and impacts customer satisfaction. Ultimately, this behavior endangers the business and this must be stopped. Unwanted behavior causes performance problems. And most performance problems are motivational problems.

Can’t Do Versus Won’t Do

Performance problems come in two varieties, “can’t do” and “won’t do”. The can’t do behavior shows when people are confronted with a change that they are not ready for (yet). Required skills, knowledge and tools are not available, or the new way of working truly generates workloads that people can’t handle. Some form of resistance from this perspective is understandable and usually leads to evasive behavior and performance drops. Of course, these types of problems are usually already under control. People are trained and certified, tools are purchased, installed, workloads are managed and so forth.

The won’t do behavior shows when people decide not to follow protocol and procedures. Despite all preparations, training, certificates, management attention, awareness sessions, available tools and instructions, people still choose to behave differently. The problem is that they “get away” with it and, thus, are reinforced for their behavior. Of course, the manager noticed and discussed the behavior, but nothing seems to change. Even worse, others start copying unwanted behavior, the performance drops (rapidly) and management gets frustrated. Also, the rate of sick leave increases, and on top of that, customer satisfaction decreases.

To be continued in next week’s post!

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