07 October 2008

Incorporating IT Service Management: Digging In The Right Place

Cheryl Croce

Cheryl Croce
Sr. Consultant
Veris Associates, Inc.


As I pored through research on IT trends, the economic impact on those trends and the forecasts over the past few months, a line from the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark kept popping into my head:

They’re digging in the wrong place!”

For those of you who have not seen Raiders of the Lost Ark, everyone in the movie is in a race to find the Well of Lost Souls, which houses the Lost Ark, which contains power that would be useful to any army. (Bear with me.) In order to so, they had to have the map to the Well of Lost Souls, which was inscribed on a medallion. The villains in the movie did not get the medallion; however one of their henchmen had the information burned on his hand from trying to grasp it in a fire-encapsulated building. The problem with the approach: he only had half of the information. The medallion had location information on both sides and, as a result, the baddies exhausted resources and man hours by digging in the wrong place.

It’s the same thing with the implementation of IT Service Management.

In today’s market, many IT organizations have embarked on the multiple-year investment it takes to implement IT Service Management so they may improve their quality of service to their business customers. Many of those IT teams focused solely on functions, processes and services.

While it increases the IT organization’s service delivery maturity, this approach is still missing an important component. The biggest oversight is the lack of organizational adoption of the compulsory cultural changes associated with executing the ITIL framework as part of IT Service Management.

How does an IT organization successfully incorporate IT Service Management practices into their way of working? How does it dig in the right place?

  • Foster Cultural Awareness. When IT Service Management models are adopted, IT becomes a strategic asset during times of growth and economic downturns. IT Service Management is a culture, not a project. It is not only important for the IT organization to understand this, but it is also critical for the departments they serve (HR, Sales, Marketing, Finance, Purchasing) to know this, too.
  • Talk is Good. While the ITIL framework provides a common IT language, understanding business-speak is equally important in securing the cultural adoption of IT Service Management. It is important for an IT organization to be well-versed in both IT Service Management processes and sound business management practices.
  • Conversations are Better. By having conversations – be they round tables, strategy sessions, departmental meetings or social network discussions - IT organizations will have a better understanding of the Businesses they serve. They will drive their service strategies and service development, and will continually improve their existing functions, processes and services.
  • Understand the Definition of ‘Value.’ An IT organization may have excellent subject matter experts, solid processes, standardized tools and defined measurements and metrics, but all of that means little to the customers they serve if it doesn’t demonstrate value to them. By doing so, IT will be able to capitalize, exploit and maintain their functions, processes and services to meet existing and forecasted business needs.
  • Use a Lifecycle Approach. IT organizations further enhance its strategic value to its business customers by employing a Service Management lifecycle approach. In this manner, the IT organization embraces a business and IT alignment through the use of ITIL’s Service Strategy, Service Design, Service Transition, and Service Operations best practices. In addition, ITIL’s Continual Service Improvement ensures IT isn’t resting on its laurels. It provides an IT team with the ability to create meaningful internal and customer-focused metrics and helps it provide purposeful and powerful reporting for management and executives.

IT Service Management is a discipline for the efficient and effective management of information technology systems, philosophically centered on the customer's perspective of IT's contribution to the business. It is a culture, not a project, and provides sustainability to IT’s relationship with the business. By digging in the right place - looking beyond tools, templates and technology and seeing the cultural and business impact IT Service Management will have -IT organizations will be able to function effectively and get arms around their current operations.

Copyright (c) Veris Associates, Inc. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited. Comments contents are the opinions of the person posting the comment (commenter) and not necessarily those or endorsed by Veris Associates, Inc. Veris Associates, Inc. reserves the right to remove any and all comments it wishes without any recourse of the commenter. Decision of Veris Associates, Inc. is final.

Building the IT Process Framework – Part 3 – Blending Culture Before It Curdles

Neal Leininger

Neal Leininger
Project Management Consultant
Veris Associates, Inc.


As the Fall season approaches, we are all reminded of the never-ending changes that life brings. The cycle of life if you will. It also reminds me of the ways we adapt to change and embrace it in our daily lives.

The last few sessions we reviewed some
PMO Pitfalls and Process Framework Highlights. In this article we will be discussing key strategies to introduce IT Service Management (ITSM) into your culture, and to ensure continual commitment and momentum.

As with change in any culture, it often is met with resistance. In my opinion, there are a number of ways to re-direct and harness that energy:

  • Leading by Example
  • Mentoring / Consultative Actions
  • Employing Top-Down Leadership

For those un-familiar with the term “curdle,”curd is a dairy product obtained by coagulating or curdling milk with an edible acidic substance, such as lemon juice or vinegar, and then draining off the “whey,” or liquid portion. It is essentially cottage cheese or paneer; an unaged, acid-set, non-melting farmer cheese. Milk that has been left to sour (raw milk alone or pasteurized milk with added lactic acid bacteria) will also naturally produce curds, and sour milk cheese is produced this way.

This brings the question:

Q: Is “Curdling your culture” a bad thing? It does, in fact, yield a useful product.

A: I think in some examples, there comes a tipping point, where a cultural decomposition is necessary; as it is said in our Declaration of Independence “But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

Call me a patriot, but there comes a time when the “long train of abuses and usurpations” of a company’s right to a good process requires throwing off the old, and establishing new guards for their future security.

I don’t think it’s a bad thing, but to obtain curd, you must practice patience and deliberate precision in its preparation. This is no going back after you’ve made the curd, so before you go down that road ensure you’ve exhausted all other alternatives.

Let’s take a step back and look at ways to prevent unplanned curdling in your culture.

Q: How do I instill change in a culture?

A: There are a number of approaches for enacting change.

First, leading by example will show people that you’re serious, and more importantly, successful at what you’re doing. By adopting a “Lead by Example” approach, those key members of your staff will see the vision and direction, and will feel more comfortable walking outside their comfort zones, which is a large part of the battle.

Secondly, by mentoring and taking active consultative actions, you’ll demonstrate you are confident in the direction you are leading, and will also begin to add value at a very tactical level. Maybe it’s helping someone put an action plan or continual improvement plan in place. Or perhaps it’s taking a leadership role in building a communications tour, or helping someone put together a presentation and being his or her sounding board. Either way, it demonstrates that you’re serious, and you don’t mind “getting your hands dirty.”

Lastly, show them the vision. The best way to do that is to have it come from a high visibility and known-quantity leadership individual or body. It is one thing for you to have a vision, and to drive it; it’s another thing entirely if they hear it from an Executive Leadership figure driving the direction of the company. Everyone wants to feel connected to their company, and by knowing that the path you’re paving is the same as Executive Leadership, it will help alleviate fears of being left in the cold.

Q: How do I ensure continual commitment?

A: Engage your experts. Seek out Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), whether consultants or full-time employees. Don’t be afraid to be mentored or to solicit the help of experts. The key is to trust that knowledge and expertise.

Understand this is part of delegating responsibility and letting go of those “pieces,” when things don’t go as “planned” according to your view; give those experts a wide berth. Even if you feel they are truly failing, or not achieving a particular bullet-point on a particular roadmap, you must demonstrate that they are truly empowered.

We learn best by our mistakes. Encouraging those experts to lead, for others to grow wings and fly on their own, will also reverberate in your organization. If others see the first misstep is a “Career Limiting Move” (CLM) for that person’s upward mobility, they will surely avoid every aspect. On the other hand, if they see those “experts” being given the support and latitude to empower experts of their own, those key individuals will seek the same. Those are the “Future Experts” that will help take your wonderful “
Process Garden” and translate it into bountiful profits.

So to answer the question at hand, “How do I ensure continual commitment?” I say, show them continual commitment; not commitment that dries up during a hiring freeze, tough market conditions, or an unpopular presidential candidate. Nay, you must foster the roots of your organization and the roots of your experts, so that they can withstand the fiercest of storms and droughts. Dare I say, they may serve as an oasis for you and yours when the time of need arrives.

Q: How do I keep momentum?

Understand that this is not an easy task; leading change will often challenge you to re-evaluate everything you know about Business, Technology, and Life at large. Keeping momentum is so very important because without it, all your vision, your hard work, and sweet “milk” will succumb to the acid of the old guard. Whether or not you like cottage cheese, it will be the only thing on the table.

Momentum can be felt in several areas.

  • Tactical change: The day-to-day changes; both from what is worked on to how work is done on those things.
  • Strategic change: The horizon will change for those leaders and future experts. They will realize your organization is heading to a new place, and will exhibit renewed fervor.
  • Communal change: The self-imposed status-quo will be lifted and redirected; those around your “area affect” will recognize a change in the tempo and tempest of your organization.

So the important piece to this is recognizing those three areas, and addressing them in a methodical manner. By enacting steady tactical changes -- not too fast, not too slow, and at the right time -- it will be in their faces, undeniable proof that change is happening. For them, not to them.

By enacting Strategic change, they too will recognize the change in the tone at the top. By knowing and seeing how they tie together, it will reinforce changes are necessary and important, and subsequently, they will feel a connection unlike anything they’ve felt before.

Lastly, I feel Communal change is one of the most important and influential aspects. It is palatable at the water cooler and at lunch tables. It’s that sense of belonging to something bigger, and also the sense of being accountable to your peers -- that if you don’t get behind this change, it will let your peers down.

Q: So what does culture change have to do with Curd?

Nothing, and everything.

Curd is a by-product of milk standing still and spoiling, the milk would be wasted, so the cycle of life takes over; it makes something useful from something useless; in this case, perhaps an IT department, in a town not too far from your own. In a business sense, when an organization stagnates, and spoils, there rises to the surface these “clumps,” which when strained and repurposed, makes a wonderful new product.

However, if it’s unintentional, it’s disastrous.

So my advice is this: When you’re blending change into your culture, don’t put your precious resources in the position to spoil. Frequent communication checkpoints with your Subject Matter Experts will keep you in tune with the process. Also, ensure proper precautions are in place to let you know when you’re reaching a resource’s “expiration date.” Lastly, if your intent is to let it curdle, make sure you have good recipes for that curd, and of course; make sure the executive branch likes cottage cheese.

To Recap:

  • Curd isn’t a bad thing, but it’s an acquired taste, and requires some careful planning;
  • Change keeps your culture from spoiling, tune for desired results;
  • Communication keeps you in tune with the process, regardless of the desired end product;
  • Continue to lead by example, and to build executive leadership’s buy-in; and,
  • Commitment and Momentum will keep you on track.

Thanks for your time; I look forward to your feedback at nealleininger@verisassociates.com, or in our blog’s comment section at http://veris-pm.blogspot.com/

Copyright (c) Veris Associates, Inc. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited. Comments contents are the opinions of the person posting the comment (commenter) and not necessarily those or endorsed by Veris Associates, Inc. Veris Associates, Inc. reserves the right to remove any and all comments it wishes without any recourse of the commenter. Decision of Veris Associates, Inc. is final.

Five Tips for a Great Performance Review

Cheryl Croce

Cheryl Croce
Sr. Consultant
Veris Associates, Inc.


The anticipation.
The flop sweat.
The fear it won’t go as well as you want it to go.

It’s the annual performance review. Those aren’t the doubts of the employee. They are the uncertainties of the manager.

Everyone’s been there at least once. We’ve had memories of performance reviews, even when they were positive, where we wished the manager worded something differently, or clarified information in their message, or provided enough time for us to express an opinion about what was said. These are the reviews that scar new managers or propel them to vow they will ‘do right’ by their employees during evaluation periods. Then the time comes and they find themselves tongue-tied, nervous and unsure how to proceed.

One of the more weighty responsibilities of any manager is providing annual reviews to his or her staff members. They are a wonderful opportunity for both manager and employee to get one-on-one time and to discuss important career milestones and objectives, achievements, and opportunities for improvement.

While managers are given standardized documents and a process for capturing information about an employee’s performance, companies leave out how to process all the feedback, consolidate the message and deliver the positive and constructive information.

Some may debate delivering a performance review is more art than science; less formula and more finesse. To be sure, managers must possess a certain level of diplomacy when they convey what is in the evaluation. But, there are steps managers can take to ensure the experience is a just and fair one for their employees.

Following five straightforward rules of engagement, managers at any level of experience can deliver great performance reviews:

  1. Be prepared before you walk into the review. In reality, there should not be any surprises to the employee if the performance review process is executed properly. There should not be any surprises to you as a manager, either. Employees expect managers to have a comprehensive, accurate picture of their performance during the year. Collect feedback from others who work with your employee, even if your company does not have a 360 review process. Do not disappoint them by consolidating the feedback without reading or understanding all of it. Go back to the contributors and ask questions if you are unsure of the information returned to you for your employee.
  2. Focus on the strengths. Traditionally, there is polarity in the delivery of performance reviews. Much wasted time is spent on opportunities for improvement or focusing on weakness. Mention them and then move on. What is it that makes employees valued assets to the company, to the team, and to you? Emphasize those qualities, and discuss ways the employees can continue to flex their muscles in these areas.
  3. When delivering tough messages, place the spotlight on behaviors and not the individual. No one likes to hear negative feedback, especially if it is a behavior they unintentionally exhibited. Assume merit and positive intentions, but address the damaging behaviors that impact individual employees, their colleagues and the company. In order to properly course-correct without retribution, you must be just and fair in the approach. Come prepared with specific examples of how the behavior, not the individual, caused issues and provide suggestions on how the behavior might be altered to create positive results in the future.
  4. Use your ears as much as your voice. Allot time for employees to express their concerns and their expectations. As much as it is a review of performance, it is also a forum for them to talk about their career outlook and aspirations.
  5. Develop a measurable and meaningful action plan. Close the chapter on the year in review, and look to the future. Explore career growth, and how their strengths may be applied in achieving both their goals and your organization’s objectives. Map out a strategy that has clear milestones and deliverables, and discuss how these will be achieved realistically. Don’t be afraid to add challenge to the plan, but make sure to tie deliverables back to the agreed-upon plan.

How about you? Do you have any managerial tricks of the trade you employ when delivering performance reviews? Share them with our reader community.