Culture is one of the most important elements in service management but has rarely received more than lip service about “soft skills”.
Successful change projects are affected very much by culture so it’s necessary to call out aspects of it that matter and therefore need managing.
The ITIL® 4 Specialist: Create, Deliver and Support (CDS) module is not unusual among ITIL guidance in tackling culture, but it certainly opens up the subject. This is why I think it’s the go-to module after ITIL 4 Foundation; addressing people, culture and collaborative working – not just processes and tools.
I’m encouraged by the number of people who’ve said that now is the right time for ITIL to provide more cultural guidance. And this covers a number of critical areas:
How we work
CDS explains different organization structures and asks practitioners to recognize both their variety and the skills needed to succeed within them: professionalism, flexibility, ability to manage people and a grasp of wider business and market conditions.
This also influences how leaders and managers listen to their people, take them seriously and contribute to creating good workplaces.
Though the module takes a mostly neutral approach to organizational ways of working, it reflects a wider spectrum of approaches including Agile and DevOps. The latter represent new ways of working in development that can also be used in operational areas such as servant leadership (focussing on individuals’ needs first), and autonomous teams. All can help to improve communications between service creation, delivery and support.
How we engage with people – customers/users, colleagues
Gathering feedback through ongoing close engagement with customers and other stakeholders is vital, in order to understand and act on issues.
What’s important to customers can’t be at the expense of your own people; there is new appreciation that your colleagues’ satisfaction is important too. Feedback can come from many sources and through different channels. This should extend from customers and users to staff, suppliers, partners and other relevant stakeholders.
There is also a changing attitude to suppliers and procurement. Previously, the prevailing culture saw IT functions putting pressure on suppliers about price and service level agreements.
Though this behaviour still exists, there is a growing movement towards a more holistic approach and recognition that we’re all part of a value stream where it’s better to work as partners.
Building and running different value streams across functional areas
Value streams that involve numerous parts of an organization could combine different sets of people for the first time. So, how do you get teams to collaborate or even recognize the need to collaborate?
Culturally this is challenging and needs effective leadership. It starts by examining the experience customers have when consuming services that your organization delivers.
CDS provides value stream mapping to ensure the organization is working together holistically to create and provide new, joined-up solutions.
But it goes beyond a mapping exercise to explain how new approaches need selling to management and leadership teams. Therefore, the guidance helps practitioners to make any suggested change more digestible at the strategic business level.
Communicating and operating as people in a technical-focused world
CDS is about practitioners understanding the big picture and relating it to what they do day-to-day (whether that’s service desk, incident management, etc).
Ultimately, it focuses on how people and teams work together, joining the dots and promoting the importance of culture and communication. It means recognizing the human element in the midst of increasing service automation because technology alone won’t deliver the best possible experience for colleagues, customers and suppliers.
And underlying everything is something that ITIL 4 supports: governance. With this in place, the organization will have a clear set of objectives and a way of managing them.