How does ITIL® enable organizations to tackle a VUCA environment (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous) such as the current pandemic?
The current situation warrants significant changes in dealing with improvement initiatives because the measurements and metrics that are relevant in an office working environment may no longer be relevant in a remote working environment. Additionally, this makes effective collaboration challenging.
The continuous improvement model as shown in the ITIL 4 Strategic Leader: Direct, Plan and Improve (DPI) and Digital & IT Strategy (DITS) modules will help to manage improvement initiatives.
How do the various steps in this approach work?
What is the Vision?
Previously, the vision was associated with long-term strategies. Today, strategy cycles and planning horizons are likely to become much shorter. All improvement initiatives should therefore be aligned to these short-term strategies and objectives.
Where are we now?
Practitioners need to establish baseline data for the right context. So, while many people continue to work from home, baselines for workplace improvements still need to be relevant for the long term.
For example, an initiative to reduce wi-fi incidents should not necessarily treat data from the past three months – when the number of office users and incidents was negligible – as accurate and reliable.
Where do we want to be?
This step defines the desired future state and objectives for improvement initiatives. The ITIL guiding principle of “Think and work holistically” – looking at the big picture – is very important in the current context of uncertainty and ambiguity.
For example, while working on an Incident Volume Reduction (IVR) initiative, we may focus too much on a particular call driver and overlook another factor which may increase the overall number of incidents.
How do we get there?
In the current situation, collaboration may not be straightforward. So, it is critical to identify all the stakeholders involved with an initiative and collaborate virtually to set expectations and get buy-in. The DPI module’s stakeholder mapping approach allows us to segment stakeholders into critical, major, significant and minor categories; ensuring we engage with each appropriately to gain support. Having leadership commitment is another important aspect of managing stakeholders.
When face-to-face interaction is not possible, virtual collaboration tools become imperative to implement improvement initiatives. This means scheduling regular, online meetings with relevant stakeholders to track progress.
In addition, timely and accurate documentation and communication becomes much more important. Examples include:
- Minutes of meeting indicating progress and actions
- Action and issues log with clearly-defined owners and timescales
- Report on progress of initiatives including red, amber, green (RAG) status
- Report on completed initiatives with realized benefits and lessons learned
Did we get there?
Normally, we would use measurements and metrics to determine whether the desired future state was reached. However, in the current situation we need to ask additional questions:
- Are we using the right measures for success or failure of the initiative?
- Are the measurements in context and would the results be different if the situation was normal?
- Is the original problem still relevant in the current situation?
- Are we measuring business outcomes, not just measurement improvements?
- Are the achieved benefits in line with what the key stakeholders want?
How do we keep the momentum going?
Have we achieved the intended benefits or is the improvement merely a coincidence? Currently, the monitoring period for this may be extended by a couple of months, or more, to ensure that the achieved benefits are sustainable. This is particularly important where there is a behavioural change involved, as people can revert to old ways of working if the momentum is lost or other factors divert their focus.
Letting things drift can be a common mistake and can be detrimental to the initiative’s success, undoing months of effort spent achieving the desired outcomes.