ITSM simulation: changing culture, making significant improvements

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What can ITSM practitioners learn from getting involved in problem-solving simulation activities?

ITSM simulationFor example, the Apollo 13 simulation – something offered by accredited trainers – replicates the NASA event made famous by the phrase “Houston, we’ve got a problem”. And it gives ITSM professionals the challenge of completing this fraught space journey.

That involves designing and building processes while using them and improving them in a simulated situation.

Teams participating in such activity always make major discoveries based on reflections and coming up with improvement suggestions for processes and entire ways of working. It shows certain behaviour among the team that most likely reflects actual day-to-day behaviour. In this way, the biggest learnings are about how you should work together and the problems caused by not working together. It’s all about behaviour and culture!

IT departments often believe they are a “tight” team while the simulation often shows that this isn’t true. Instead, they discover they have work to do. For example, how are they really communicating? Are they really handing over things properly? Are they using frameworks such as ITIL® in the way they should? Are they wrestling with a difficult culture?

Why simulate?

Leif AnderssonOne of the main advantages of running simulations is the ability to reflect. In a normal day, ITSM teams don’t often look back before jumping into the next assignment. But by reflecting among the team, you’ll be amazed what you can accomplish by seeing, agreeing on and making improvements.

And this approach is valuable to instil in IT and ITSM people at the earliest stages of their career. For example, the students I work with at the University of Boras outside Gothenburg, Sweden, have been involved in both the Apollo 13 and Phoenix Project (DevOps) simulations created by Gamingworks.

What I’ve noticed is a profound change in team work, collaboration and communication among the students. Without, perhaps, having an established culture they adopt new ways of working very quickly. On the other hand, IT departments – often with long-standing experience and an established way of working – are less open to change. One thing that stands out as a big difference between students and IT departments is WIP (Work in progress/process) in the Phoenix Project (DevOps sim). IT departments often struggle with adopting WIP: they almost always take on too much work in the simulation and fail to get things through the flow. Conversely, students adopt WIP almost immediately and they manage the workload much better!

So, I think it’s essential that we educate and train people early in their ITSM journey, in frameworks and models such as ITIL, DevOps and Kanban and in collaborative team working rather than just technology!

Using simulation

in a simulation activity offers the experience of planning, doing, checking and acting in a controlled, metaphoric environment. It helps teams look at their practices and reflect on them.  What they learn in experience-based training like simulations often sticks with them for many years and it’s not unusual to see immediate behaviour change. People often do not know the consequences of their behaviour and the simulation makes it visible.

Companies and their IT departments, when thinking about continual improvement, almost always do this on products or infrastructure rather than looking at improvement of the service as a whole – which includes process, culture, behaviour, customer communication, SLA (or rather XLA) fulfilment. A simulation gives you the chance to experience this and start work with service improvement.

You need to set aside time for reflection and improvements and simulations are a great way of introducing this to the team. Clearly, this doesn’t come for free but it pays back a lot more than it costs and even small changes can lead to significant changes in the organization.

So, stop what you’re doing, take a step back and look at what you’re doing from a third person perspective. Is your behaviour contributing value to your business? If it is, great, keep doing it! If it’s not, improve. Start over!

Read more AXELOS Blog Posts by Leif Andersson

ITSM into 2018: framework maturity and business alignment

ITIL and DevOps – better together

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