Process implementation in IT Service Management (ITSM) comprises the steps we take to deliver services and the changes necessary to support the business moving forward.The purpose of IT is to be a business partner, ensuring anything that falls within the remit of delivering the business’ needs is carried out efficiently and effectively through good, high-quality teamwork.
Customers expect typical services - for example procurement, on-boarding employees and payroll - to be delivered with assistance from technology and expect the IT team working to ensure all services are aligned and delivered effectively.
The challenge comes when teams need to work across their natural departmental boundaries because people are simply wired differently and do not perceive issues with a standardized viewpoint. Unless teams learn to work as one, the services they deliver will never be the best they can offer. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team written by Patrick Lencioni explores the potential five weak spots in every team.
Absence of trust
Process implementation requires people from different technical abilities to bring their expertize to the table. Sometimes people can become territorial as they see a process as “their domain” or may simply not like the proposed changes. Often the issue can arise from people not knowing what the intent is behind a change or why they might be working with people they do not feel have the knowledge necessary to understand the current process design.
Additional leadership support is needed to help combat the fear of vulnerability we all experience when we are asked to step out of our comfort zones. Team members need an environment where they can voice their opinions, ideas and concerns without fear of feeling unheard or judged by others. Not providing this type of environment affects the ability to generate high-quality ideas. The leader of the process implementation should lead by example to create the trust environment.
Fear of conflict
Similarly, there is often a fear of voicing an idea or challenging those who do. The majority of workers have become accustomed over the last several years to avoiding conflict in order to keep a “harmonious” work environment. This “do not rock the boat” mentality leads team members to believe they should not speak up with ideas, suggestions and solutions. Conversely, if one person dominates a conversation with a poor idea, without anyone challenging, the team will end up discussing the same core problem again at some point later down the line.
The process implementation leader should pay close attention to the team actions, reactions and non-verbal cues. Encourage those who tend to dominate conversation to listen while encouraging quieter people to speak up and get recognition for the work they do. This helps to demonstrate that the changes put in place went through a vetting process that took everything and everyone into account.
Lack of commitment
Even when we give our best efforts to communicate reason, there is always one person who does not see the need for change and may not commit to the process of continual improvement. Regardless of whether you are creating a new process from scratch or changing an existing process, there will always be someone who feels it does not need to be “messed” with. This can derail the transitional change, especially if that person is particularly respected and in a position of authority.
You many need to hold a side conversation with the person in question to help gain commitment. Ask the person to provide you with specifics on what they feel it will take to make the change happen. Get the person to commit to discussing the options with the team. This helps the team member see the change is possible and engages them into the process with fellow team members. Combating the litany of excuses about “why it won’t work” with a set of options that everyone has come up with will show the team’s reasoning and gives a set of choices to your senior management.
Avoidance of accountability
People shy away from accountability and point the finger at others if something goes wrong. Phrases like “we did our part” and “that’s not what I think should occur” undermine the credibility of the IT department as a whole. Frankly, customers rarely care as much about “the who” as they do about “the why” and, more importantly, what IT will do to keep the issue from happening again. From the start of service design, practitioners need to engage in discussions that highlight all team members’ responsibilities and how they align as a team. When something goes wrong in the delivery of a service, IT leadership should look to the team to fix the issue because the whole team put the process in place.
At the end of the day, the CIO has the ultimate accountability for the performance of IT, the services IT delivers, and the services that help the business meet its mission. IT leaders must help teams understand what accountability means. Clear statements of expectations and defined measurement help ensure team members understand how they are accountable.
Inattention to results
If we are traveling somewhere, we wouldn’t ignore the gas gauge on our car during the trip. The gas gauge is the indicator of how far one can travel before having to stop and helps the traveller make decisions around costs, distance, routes and other critical information. So why do we ignore measures regarding our processes? How do we know a process is efficient? Is a process meeting the desired outcome?
Our attention on these issues tends to be more intense early in the process operation and may start to wane as time goes on. Not staying focused on the results can build distrust amongst teams, help teams fail to keep accountability, and cause IT to lose credibility with the customer. It also positions teams to scramble to find a solution once a customer says there is a problem. By monitoring the desired against the actual results, teams can spot a possible problem before it arises and keep customer satisfaction at a higher level.
Best practice helps minimize dysfunctions
Best practices, like ITIL®, give us the starting point to talk about all the parts within a process implementation. Practitioners can draw from examples from around the world showcasing success and can help counter the lack of commitment, satisfy the cynics and build trust within a team.
Using processes like Incident Management and Continual Improvement helps teach us to be aware of desired outcomes and review processes to ensure they are fit for use and purpose. Having a common set of practices that all team members follow ensures accountability is spread across teams instead of individuals. When things should happen to go wrong, frameworks provide teams with a common language to spot mistakes and understand limitations as well as allowing the team to ask for help and enable them to tap into the skills and experience of others.
Practitioners knowing where dysfunctions may lie during process design activities can help IT teams build better relationships, improve outcomes, gain and retain customers, and help improve the overall effectiveness of the IT department.
Have you had to manage 'dysfunctions' within a team? What processes did you implement? Tell us about your experiences in the Comments box below