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61  Craig's Blog / ITSM/ITIL Ramblings / PLEASE Stop Comparing ITIL to ISO20000! on: October 20, 2010, 09:06:21 am
I have no intention of calling anyone out on the carpet, so I’ll leave his name out of this.

There is a fairly prominent, well known ITSM/ITIL consultant who I have heard give essentially the same talk numerous times on the convention circuit, comparing IEC/ISO 20000 to ITIL.
I have a problem with this comparison.

He selects his words deliberately to stress that the two can work hand-in-hand, they have different purposes, he does not wish to badmouth ITIL and other such disclaimers, but his arguments paint a somewhat different picture.

He uses the example of Incident Management to make his case and states that while ITIL lists hundreds of best practices to follow, ISO20K has only six. Thus, ISO20K is easier to understand, easier to grasp, easier to sell to management, easier to plan, easier to chart progress and provides simple, binary milestones to celebrate:
Number one done?

He states that while ITIL adoption has no end, ISO20K has a very clearly defined set of specific goals that can serve as a straight-forward basis for a finite implementation roadmap and project plan. You not only have a goal to strive toward, but you can show evidence of your compliance.

He jokes about how nobody is quite sure even how many processes ITIL has, let alone how many best practices are contained therein.

He complains about the supposed lack of guidance ITIL has with regard to responsibilities & accountabilities across processes.

I’m not about to take his arguments apart one-by-one – I haven’t the time for that, nor am I interested, as I said earlier, in calling anyone out on the carpet. I just wanted to use this gentleman as an example of a very highly experienced, knowledgeable, intelligent and well respected ITSM professional making some of the same arguments I come across every day from many others. These arguments, as far as I can tell, stem from an apparent misunderstanding of what ITIL is, and what it is not – an apparent misunderstanding of the purpose of ITIL.

What these arguments boil down to, in my view, can be simply stated as, “I want something to give me a clearly laid out ITSM road map that will cover all the steps from point A to point Z and how to traverse that path. ITIL falls well short of that.”

I made two statements on Twitter a while back that I think nicely sum up my thoughts on this topic:

#ITIL Core is, in essence, the collected, codified notebooks of the #ITSM Dream Team – not the Twelve Apostles.
#ITIL is a mentor with 30 yrs exp in #ITSM. Like any mentor, learn from it – don’t emulate it. Following any leader blindly makes you a fool.

ITIL doesn’t provide what ISO20K does because ITIL was not intended to be a standard. They have vastly different purposes.

ISO20K is a great tool to gauge the state of ITSM in your organization and help to forge a rough plan for adoption of ITSM best practices. ITIL is the seasoned professional who has seen these plans many times over and has some sage advice to offer on the subject.
Recall how ITIL was developed. It was gleaned by researching the practices of high performing organizations world-wide.

Gather a large group of ITSM professionals, each with many years experience, and ask them what worked and what failed. Take notes on what they say. Compare their different approaches and stories. Gather all this data and organize it the best you can.

Now… what do you do with this gathered data?

A follower builds a checklist to follow.
A leader considers the advice, learns from the experiences of others and weighs it against his/her own first-hand experiences.

The difference between a manager and a leader is that a manager directs and controls people’s actions – a leader inspires and empowers people’s imaginations. A good mentor wants to create another mentor by offering guidance and wisdom – not create another follower by dictating direction.

ITIL is not a standard – it’s not a road map – it’s not a checklist – it’s not a procedures manual.
ITIL is a reference library of the collected wisdom of leaders.
What you do with that wisdom is what defines whether you are a follower or a leader.

For the life of me, I can’t figure out why so many organizations set up a multi-million dollar budget and five-year plan to “Implement ITIL”.
Organizations are constantly adjusting how they do things based on lessons learned – from both first-hand experience and observing best practices in the industry. What has changed? ITIL just put those current best practices into a collection of books that are readily available and easy to navigate.
If I hear one more person complain about ITIL putting out “another version”, I can’t be held responsible for my actions. ITIL doesn’t change often enough!

If it were up to me, I’d never even put out hard copies, because the landscape is changing so rapidly, by the time the books come off the presses, they are ready for a refresh. Put it all on the web and keep it in flux, just as the industry is. ITIL could be, and I believe it was intended to be, the unaffiliated, non-profit, unbiased (therefore inherently honest) alternative to the likes of Forrester and Gartner. ITIL should be an open resource of information reflecting current good practices, leading best practices and emerging trends in Information Services Management.
ITIL is where Service Management leaders should turn to see what other Service Management leaders are doing, consider the advice, learn from them, weigh it against their own first-hand experiences and adjust the direction of their institutionalized ITSM practices.

Regardless of whether the organization leadership gets its guidance from Forrester, Gartner, CIO Magazine, ITIL or any other source, makes no difference in the “implementation” of what comes of that guidance.

You can build a five-year, multi-million dollar plan to overhaul your operations and try a state-sponsored cultural revolution.
Or… you can adopt an approach of constant influence over cultural evolution and bake it into your operations.

Policy is set.
New practices and methods are adopted by the leadership.
These new practices slide into the cracks in the organization (some invariably slide through the cracks).
The new practices congregate, fight, conquer, procreate with and evolve with the old practices.
Each successive generation then influences the next.
Cultural CSI.

One of the most brilliant ITSM minds I have had the good fortune to meet (his name is Rodger Baker, and unfortunately, I don't believe he's on Twitter) has practiced what he calls “Stealth ITIL.” He has successfully adopted an ITSM approach that utilizes ITIL as the best practice framework in organizations without ever even using the terms ITIL or ITSM. Genius.

In my experience, when you launch a big program intended to change the way everyone operates, the response from the ground is most often, “God Damnit! Now what do we have to change to comply with management’s latest flavor of the month?”

How about simply… “Hey, everyone. We’re going to stop calling it a System Trouble Record, and start calling it an Incident Record now.”
That’s exactly how it happened in my organization. We changed the name in the tool and started an awareness campaign. A few months later everyone (everyone in an organization of over 100,000 people, mind you) was using ITIL terminology – and only a handful were aware of it.

What is ITIL? ITIL is a mentor looking to advise you on what (s)he has seen succeed and fail in ITSM. That’s all.
62  Craig's Blog / General Ramblings / The Space Between Influence & Potential - I Am on: October 19, 2010, 09:02:29 am
Through my train of thought jumping from one track to the next and next this morning, I found my mind hovering over Elijah Muhammad, which caused it to wander to a thought that brought up a significant question for me – a question that made me reconsider a long-held belief of mine – and not just a belief that I stumbled upon or was indoctrinated into to, but a belief that I had formed over years of careful exploration and stringent challenging.

I love those questions!

The thought my mind wandered to was, “If being the victim of racism has made you a racist, you are no better – you’re still just a racist.” It made perfect sense to me: While the source and cause of your prejudices may be understandable, they are only truly significant for understanding and self exploration to learn how to undo the damage that has been done – not to serve as a ready excuse for your appalling behavior.

This long-held belief I referred to has always been a bit of a point of internal contention for me and this is why I explored it so much and kept coming back to challenge it over and over again. “I am the result of my experiences.” In other words, I am product the countless influences on me throughout my life. While the line between nature and nurture (if there is a discrete line) may never be quantified, nurture certainly plays a significant role in shaping the people we become. Karma is real, undeniable and wholly unavoidable.

The difficulty of this for me had always been reconciliation of external influences and personal responsibility. How much blame can be placed on the abused abuser – especially if the line between nature and nurture cannot be objectively defined? If we are who we have been influenced to be, how much responsibility can we truly have in our actions? At the same time, if free will does exist, how can we not be held responsible for our actions?

On the morning of May 19, 2010, I felt quite at ease sitting within this contentious space, for the first time ever. My perception shifted in that moment.

I love those moments!

I never doubted – and still do not doubt – that karma is a real and powerful force. I never doubted – and still do not doubt – that I greatly value acknowledging personal responsibility and accepting accountability. The perception shift that was required to take place within me was not so much one of finding balance – which I am always searching for – rather it was more a shift of perspective. I began viewing my “self” as an intersection of what has come and what is to come – the intersection of past and future forming the present at “I Am.” – the intersection of influence and intention forming the self – the intersection of instinct and free will.

Am I defined by the results of the influences upon me leading up until now or am I defined by the results of my actions going forward? Yes.

The person I have become up until now is wholly defined by my past experiences (which includes, part and parcel, the decisions I have made by my own self-determination). In other words, who I was a moment ago, is defined by karma’s influence on me.

The decisions I make in this moment are shaping who I am to become a moment from now, as well as shaping the influence I have on the world around me. In other words, the influence I have on karma is wholly defined by the decisions I make in this moment.

The self is only existent in this moment between influence & potential and is defined by action. The answer is not, as I had always assumed, striking balance between the influence karma has on me and the influence I have on karma – the answer is to exist in that space between karma’s influence on me and my influence on karma.

I have said a thousand times, “[This] is not life” and “[That] is not life” but I have never been able to say what I think life IS. Now I believe I can.

Life is being mindfully present and actively engaged in the practice of turning influence into potential with your actions.
63  Craig's Blog / ITSM/ITIL Ramblings / The Lowest Point in My Career So Far... on: October 19, 2010, 06:51:32 am
The absolute worst day of my IT career so far has been the day I had to write Jim up.

Jim worked for me when I was running an Event Monitoring group a few years back. He had been with the company since I was 6 months old. He had not a single prior disciplinary action against him in his 35 plus years with the same company.

Jim was a hard worker who rarely took an unplanned day off, but this was a rough year for him. His brother died, his wife was hospitalized for several weeks out of the country and he fell ill, himself.

Because he used more than his allotted unplanned leave, Human Resources policy required that I write him up and put him on probation. He had over a year of grandfathered sick leave (from back when the company allowed employees to carry unused sick leave over, and, as I said, he rarely took a sick day) but since he used more than he was supposed to in a single year (which wasn’t very much at all) I still had to do it.

I was sickened by this. I would have quit my job on the spot if I could have afforded it.

I explained to Jim that he needed to call HR and discuss whether he could apply for FMLA leave after-the-fact for his wife’s illness. If they approved it, perhaps he could have those days put back in his bank, and they could rescind the disciplinary action.

He didn’t bother.

He didn’t give a shit about having the mark on his record – he was close to retirement, anyway – and he didn’t care about losing a few weeks of pay for unplanned leave. It was the principle of the matter, and I couldn’t agree with him more.

If you took a minute or two to read the Registration Agreement on this site, you would have read the following:

I’m not a big fan of “laws” per se. Laws are written for the 10% of people who don’t abide by the spirit of the law, anyway, and the other 90%, who wouldn’t transgress even if they weren’t codified laws, suffer as a result. Laws serve only to allow people to act in despicable ways and get away with it, because it is legal.

I prefer guidelines.

One of the many problems I have with working for a large corporation is that it is much like living in a large country – without laws, there will be rampant abuse of guidelines by self-important scumbags, with laws there is little to no leeway for reasonable exceptions and applying the spirit of the law.
There will always be people who will complain of unfair treatment if Jim doesn’t get disciplinary action according to the same policies that required their disciplinary action when they took yet another hangover day.

Fair is viewed by many as having all laws applying to all people, equally and without bias.
I say that’s bullshit.

Ever since I was a kid the image of “Blind Justice” has been deep under my skin.
Justice can’t be blind – she must temper her knowledge with awareness and wisdom.
To have a genuinely egalitarian set of policies humanity and reason are absolutely essential.
64  Craig's Blog / ITSM/ITIL Ramblings / ITIL/ITSM Where To Begin? on: October 15, 2010, 05:42:33 am
One of the most common questions about adoption of ITIL processes is, “Where do we start?”
If you ask most ITIL Experts, Instructors, Practitioners, Consultants… they will all have the same non-answer – “It depends.” Almost invariably, though, when you start digging into what it depends upon, those pundits will tend towards some combination of Incident/Problem/Change.

I disagree.

The reasoning for leaning in the direction they do is sound:
Quick wins and demonstrable results will help to garner support and build & maintain momentum.

All of these are important aspects of building lasting cultural change – and, at its root, ITIL is really a cultural change initiative.
Jumping into Incident/Problem/Change Management at the outset, however, is diving in blindfolded and ignorant, in my view.

Of course there are exceptions and caveats to every “rule”, but not only is a well-designed and implemented Knowledge Management process the single most important success factor in the adoption of ITIL processes – it should be the bedrock that the rest of the processes are built upon.

A well-designed and implemented Knowledge Management process will help you discover those quick win opportunities.
A well-designed and implemented Knowledge Management process will help you build baseline metrics to demonstrate the results.

Knowledge Management will help to analyze the expanded incident lifecycle to find inefficiencies in the Incident Management process.
You don’t have quality expanded incident lifecycle data to analyze? Knowledge Management can help with that.

Do you want a Service Catalog? It’s just a simple built-out view of the Portfolio. How do you build a portfolio? That’s right.

Effective Knowledge Management can help to uncover and address shortcomings in your current processes – both by determining the effectiveness of the current metrics being collected (thereby dictating what measurements are missing and what needs to change in your processes to facilitate that collection) and by analysis of the existing set of metrics and measurements to plan greater efficiency and effectiveness into the processes.

If you don’t know what’s broken, you can’t fix it. That’s not news.
Less obvious, and arguably more significant: If you don’t know why it’s broken, you can’t fix it properly.

While the heart and engine of ITSM is Continual Service Improvement, the heart and engine of CSI is Knowledge Management.

I find two things most revolutionary about Deming’s Plan, Do, Check, Act (or, as he preferred, Plan, Do, Study, Act):
1. It is infinitely scalable (or as the geek in me wants to say, fractal) in nature. It can be applied from the lowest level activity in a process, all the way through to the entire set of ITSM Processes and Functions as a whole.
2. (and this is the key) You should plan for tolerances. The point of Plan, Do, Check, Act is not just to measure a baseline and then compare the results after implementation, but to have an expected outcome as part of your plan and compare the actual results to the expected results. The “Study” part is attempting to discern where the actual outcome falls short of the expectation, and why.

To get the most value out of CSI, it is absolutely required to have implemented Knowledge Management.

Getting the ball rolling on Knowledge Management is perhaps the least expensive, least obtrusive, least intrusive process – certainly less so than the big three usual suspects of Incident/Problem/Change.
Forget executive buy-in. Take a talented database wiz, make sure all data and log owners know he is to have full access. Then give him a clean plate, six months & a few database servers to build a rudimentary data warehouse to federate the data.
The CIO doesn’t even have to know.
With that solid foundation of information, not only will the opportunities for “Quick Wins” become glaringly apparent, but the improvement initiatives will be well equipped with knowledge and they will have baseline measurements for later comparison.
That acquired knowledge is also fuel for cultural change. You are now well armed to quantify improvement opportunities and sell the idea to the purse string holders and get yourself a budget before you even get started.
Then give that DBA a well deserved off-cycle bonus and a month’s extended vacation.
65  Craig's Blog / General Ramblings / Regret on: October 06, 2010, 02:33:17 am
I have done some incredibly stupid things in my life.
I have made some terrible mistakes.
My actions (or inaction at times) have caused suffering to myself and others.
I have, however, no regrets.

I almost killed a man once.
I was young, stupid, jaded and bored. I was a very different person then. My only real motivation was greed. In all likelihood I would have been caught and spent the next twenty to thirty years of my life in prison. Had I not been caught, I may very well have been worse off.
It’s easy enough to say I don’t regret that decision.

I almost kissed a girl once.
Melanie was the first great love of my life. She was incredible. It was love at first sight – the only time I have ever experienced it. She was a cashier after school at a local supermarket. I was training as a day cashier and picking up extra hours in the evenings pushing carts. The first time I saw her; I sat outside the window on top of the row of carts and watched her work for my entire shift.
There was nothing I wouldn’t do for her. I was willing to move the earth for her – or die trying. One night we found ourselves parked on top of a hill, shedding an unbelievably long, whirlwind of a day. I have had precious few “perfect” moments in my life – telling my wife to be “I think I love you” for the first time in that bathtub, hearing my wife say “I do”, a flock of birds taking flight behind me and a girl at the precise moment the sun disappeared into the Pacific – this was one of them. We stood outside the car and stared off into the lights below silently.
Melanie knew how strongly I felt about her, but she would soon be going off to college. Her senior year was filled with school work, acting in the senior play, working a part time job and helping her single mother care for her young sister. I was never sure if she was interested in me, but I was sure she had no time for me. She made it clear that she was not looking to get into a relationship.
She asked if I had a jacket in my car. I didn’t, but I had a blanket in the trunk to wrap around her. I leaned on the car. She leaned into me. My arms were around her. Her face was inches from mine. There we both stood for what felt like an hour – silent and still in that moment. I could have remained there for the rest of my life and died a satisfied man.
“Should I kiss her?” My mind began to sweat.
I was a virgin, but I wasn’t completely inexperienced. The moment felt right. A kiss felt natural. This was what I had been waiting for since the moment I first saw her.
I knew she only wanted to be friends. I didn’t want to betray her trust. I didn’t want to put her in an uncomfortable situation.
She was the most beautiful girl I had ever known. This was my chance to make the first move toward the rest of our life together. I wasn’t going to let the trivialities of life get in the way of love. I was willing to sit and wait in the wings while she finished her play and her school year. There was the possibility that she would be going to college only thirty minutes away, but I was willing to drop everything and move to wherever she decided to go. I would have gone to the ends of the earth for her and waited there for as long as she needed me to. If she asked me to marry her then and there, I would have without an instant of hesitation.
This was it. This was the moment that would define my life. Deciding whether or not to kiss her would irreparably alter the course of my life as much as deciding whether or not to kill a man years later would. I wanted to kiss her more than I wanted to take my next breath. I was pretty certain it was now or never.
It was never.
She moved to Boston for college at the end of her senior year. I never heard from her again. Was it because I didn’t kiss her? I don’t know – probably not. She never told me why she stopped returning my calls shortly after that night.
Five years later, I finally began to heal.
Quite a few times over the years, I came as close to regret as I came to kissing her that night.

A romance, unsullied by the slings and arrows of real life, remains sublime. That perfect moment on the hill with Melanie in my arms came to define my relationship with her. I hadn’t realized it at the time, but for nearly twenty years, I would hold every woman I met next to my memory of that moment in time and our potential. I spent time with many women over those years, and not one of them could hold a candle to Melanie.
People often told me my standards were too high. They accused me of looking for perfection and perfection did not exist. I would always respond that I wasn’t looking for a perfect person, simply a person who was perfect for me. I wasn’t willing to settle for less – I would have rather died alone than live with someone who wasn’t right for me. What I meant was that I wasn’t willing to settle for less than Melanie. Eventually I found a woman who would surpass the impossible standard I set of the ideal, imaginary relationship I had with Melanie.

I did not kiss her that night out of respect for her. I do not regret it out of respect for myself.
Every decision I have made, every action I have taken, every experience I have had, helped shape the person I am and the life I have led so far. Even such seemingly insignificant details of my life that I can’t even recall – such as what color shirt I wore on January 17th, 1986 – have played a role in who I am today.
I like who I am. I love my life. I love my wife. None of this would be what it is, had I kissed Melanie that night.

Mistakes and poor judgment are inevitable.
The way I see it, one can learn from mistakes and use that wisdom to become a better person - or one can go the way of the fool.
I'm no fool.
My mistakes make me a better person.

If I wish to change anything I have done, I am wishing I were a different person with a different life.
I have far too much respect for myself and pride in who I am to wish for that.
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