PM Articles > Alan S. Koch > Little ITIL®, Big Results

Little ITIL®, Big Results

Step 2 of 10: Talk About Getting Started

by Alan S. Koch, PMP

Wouldn't it be great if your IT shop operated like a well-oiled machine? No crisis. No hassle. No surprises. Click, whirrrrrrrrr. Click, whirrrrrrrrr. Happy staff. Happy users. Happy executives. Click, whirrrrrrrrr. Click, whirrrrrrrrr. Smooth. Efficient. Cost-effective. Click, whirrrrrrrrr. Click, whirrrrrrrrr.

If only reality could come close to that idyllic image! ITIL℠ (the Information Technology Infrastructure Library) tells us that moving toward that ideal is within the realm of possibility. But look at all that is involved! The processes. The books! The work!!! Who can find time to even begin such an effort?

In our webinar last week, we discussed the 10 steps to starting an ITIL effort in a small IT shop:

  • Step 1. Buy Some Time
  • Step 2. Talk About Getting Started
  • Step 3. Know the Score
  • Step 4. Talk About the Score
  • Step 5. Grab Low-Hanging Fruit
  • Step 6. Talk About Improvements
  • Step 7. Learn About Your Customers' Businesses
  • Step 8. Talk About Your Customers' Business Success
  • Step 9. Help Your Customers Improve Their Businesses
  • Step 10. Keep Talking

Let's take a closer look at step 2.

Step 2. Talk About Getting Started

Before you can get started on anything of consequence to improve your IT services and people's perception of them, you must connect with those people. Naturally, this will look quite different depending on your history with those people. So let's look at the two extremes: You have a long and contentious history to overcome, or you have no history, having been hired to fix all of those IT problems.

Extreme #1: You have been hired to fix all of those IT problems.

There are some significant positives about this situation. First, the fact that you got the job says that at least a few of the senior decision makers in the enterprise have confidence in your abilities. Also, as a new hire you will be afforded a “honeymoon” period during which mistakes will not be counted so strongly against you.

Although those positives are huge, you must also realize that you have significant disadvantages. The first is your lack of knowledge about the situation. Yes, you have heard stories and complaints as part of the hiring process, but you still know precious little about the history that underlies the situation. Taking what little you know as gospel and assuming that there is little that you don't know can be a fatal error.

The second disadvantage is in your relationship with your IT staff (or more properly, the lack of a relationship with them). While the newness of the relationship is generally a positive thing with the other stakeholders, it may be entirely different with the staff. When IT is seen as a problem by the organization, IT management and staff often hunker down in a defensive us-vs-them posture.

Now, their old IT manager has been fired or forced out, and you have been brought in to whip them into shape. They are likely to be hostile about their old manager's fate, and fearful about their own. They may see the entire set of developments in a very negative light. They may actively sabotage anything you do, or they may passively resist while they look for a new job to run off to.

Although you already have a plan (and you may have been hired specifically because of that plan), now is not the time to pontificate on what you intend to do. Your first job is to listen and learn and build relationships. You need to talk with every stakeholder you have. (And that is a lot of people!)

First is the community of people who use the IT Services—from VPs and managers, to power users and other users. Later, you will be coming back to these people with a specific agenda and questions. But at this point you are just laying groundwork. Tell them you are here to make things better, then shut up and take notes. You want to hear what is on their minds and start building the reputation of being someone who listens.

You will come away from these meetings with a relatively good idea of who your customers and users are, what services each uses, what they use those services for, and what pains they experience. You will not yet have a complete picture of any of this, but this beginning will give you what you need for Step 3.

The other people you need to talk with are your IT staff. Again, you are not there to tell them about how things are going to be different. You are there to listen and learn. Their perspective is diametrically opposed to that of the other stakeholders, and reconciling what you hear from them with what you hear from other people can be a valuable way for you to begin sorting through and making sense of it all.

This talking needs to happen both individually and with the various IT workgroups. You will be listening for their perceptions of the customers and end users of their IT services as well as perceptions of the others within IT. You will also be watching for dysfunctions that may be contributing to negative perceptions, both within IT and within the customer community.

And of course, the biggest thing you are doing with your staff is cultivating the idea that you are not the enemy, and that you are genuinely focused on making things better. You must build a positive relationship with them because you will be unable to do anything of consequence without their support and help.

Extreme #2: You have a long and contentious history to overcome.

If you are in this situation, I don't need to tell you about how painful it can be. The main problem is broken trust on both sides, and this second step is aimed at that problem. This is not to say that you can repair trust with a few meetings. That is not possible. But work on it must begin immediately so that relationships can begin to mend as soon as possible.

Just as above, you will need to meet with all of your stakeholders, both within IT and your customer and user community. The purpose of these meetings is to announce that beginning today things will be changing. But you do not want to start spouting specifics. You want to follow that announcement with as open a discussion as can be mustered about what they think should change.

Your external stakeholders may use this opportunity to skewer you and your staff, so be prepared to hold your tongue and simply take notes. By listening without defending, you may learn something about their situations and needs. Then again, you may find yourself simply weathering the same storm that has battered you before. The good news is that you are demonstrating the sort of civil discourse that must replace contention if the situation is ever to improve. Even if the civility is purely one-way, it is still a good first step.

With your IT staff, you want to begin brainstorming opportunities to do things better within IT. They are likely to focus on problems with the users and customers, and allowing this sort of venting is appropriate to a point. But you want to keep redirecting them to things that are under IT's control. What can we do better? How can we change? Even if there is more bellyaching than idea generation, it is still a good thing, because you are beginning a very necessary pattern that will take time to become ingrained.

Step 2 – A Springboard to What Follows

Beginning with Step 3, you will actually be making the changes that are necessary to improving how your IT shop runs. Step 2 opens the communication lines that enable all of the following steps. The criticality of Step 2 cannot be over-stated. You may think that you can just take command and do the right things, but your success will be limited (and may be completely scuttled) if your key relationships are not bolstered first.

How important is talking? Take a look at the 10 steps that we listed at the beginning of this article. (I'll wait while you scroll back …) Notice anything? That's right. Half of them involve talking. Hard work yields its best results when we forge strong relationships with our key stakeholders and we listen to them.

There's no time like right now to start talking!

Related Links
If you missed Alan's webinar, the recording is available for purchase here, along with Alan's detailed checklist, several supplemental templates, and instructions for claiming 1.5 Category A PDUs.

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