Being an ITSM leader

10 Things You Need to Know to Be a Better ITSM Leader – Part 1

I recently finished the book The Bassoon King by Rainn Wilson. Wilson, best known for his portrayal of Dwight Schrute from the US version of The Office (and there’s no truth in the rumor that this character is based on me), devotes one chapter of his book to “10 Things I Know for Sure” in which he details for the reader the ten life lessons or “truths” that he knows are “sure things.” For example, treat people with kindness. After reading the chapter, I spent time reflecting on the ten things I know as “truths” as an IT service management (ITSM) practitioner and leader.

Here are my first five things (it was too much to put into one blog) that I think should be top of your list when thinking about your role as an ITSM leader, especially when starting to adopt ITSM within your organization. They’re a mix of my personal and industry truths that relate to bringing in ITSM into an organization.

1. Put People First

In my experience, there is the potential for team members to look at the service management practice and to consider it “the flavor of the month.” Plus, in today’s business environment, companies have to move with agility and adaptability, and this increased speed of business is tough on the workforce and can often confuse and disenfranchise, leaving team members out of touch with the core values that matter most. Then people look for meaning in their work. Most want positive energy and positive recognition.

By putting people first in your ITSM strategy and design, you send a clear message of “Our team members help us succeed or fail.” You also help the organization communicate core values, help team members to focus on those core values, and to build trust. You should also involve the teams in any transformation so that they own the outcomes and become willing to take action on their own.

2. Adoption of ITSM Practices Will Move at the Speed of the Organization’s Culture

It is so important to understand the culture of your organization. And this may not be an easy task.

How receptive the department/business is to change will be a benchmark as you roll out any ITSM adoption plan. This understanding is a critical step in the strategy design phase as it will help you scope how much change teams can tolerate.

Key things that you can do to understand the culture include:

  • Having a good relationship with the leader who deals with your organization’s culture issues (probably within the HR department). Understand the trends they see and how the organization will be impacted.
  • Having more discussions with the people affected by the change up front. Be honest with these people about what your goals are. Be respectful of the departments/business goals and perceived challenges.
  • Understanding that some people simply will not change. Build a plan to deal with this common and unavoidable issue.

3. One Bad Apple Can Spoil the Bunch

You should have a good diverse representation from department/business as you build out any ITSM processes. Doing so will help promote adoption.

That being said, be picky with the people you ask to join you on project teams. Make sure that they have the desired knowledge/skills to help the team build/design and that they also have an attitude that promotes continual improvement.

It is of course acceptable, and encouraged, to have a “critical” person or “cynic” on the team as they will most likely point out possible flaws in the design. If this behavior helps the team produce a good quality product, then great! But if the behavior causes division in the team, or derails the team’s ability to meet its goal, then you will need to reconsider the value of having this person on the team.

4. You Can Wish All You Want, Progress Requires Action

While it is important to have a good strategy, you can spend too much time thinking about how things could be better. You can wish, hope, and pray but, when it comes down to it, you have to do something. You have to take an action, to do something to move forward. An important point here is to note that I said “do something.” Not to do something big. Not to do something perfect. Just to do something.

What are the “somethings”? Here is a quick list that helps me and I encourage you to add your own somethings:

  • Set a goal – and measure progress toward the goal
  • Ask for feedback AFTER you have a prototype – people responded better to a concrete example versus a theory
  • Make at least one improvement everyday
  • Make small changes – don’t try to “boil the ocean”
  • Understand the priority – work on things that matter most

Doing  little things helps you move forward, like my friend Stuart Rance talks about in his blog “Major ITSM Improvements Should Start with Small Steps.”

Major ITSM Improvements Should Start with Small Steps

5. You Cannot Buy Your Way to Success

Almost every day I see a post saying “…looking for recommendations for a new ITSM tool to implement…” or “…can you recommend a really good consultant…?”

Consultants get a bad rap usually because we, as clients, don’t position them to be successful. Remember that you are hiring a consultant to help guide you in areas where your practitioner level of knowledge and experience is low. Expecting a consultant to come in, completely understand the culture of your organization and team, know what your customers require, and to draft documentation that positions you to be successful (in the shortest amount of time possible at the lowest price possible) is crazy. The consultant should be a partner in helping you to get to the desired outcome your customers need. You (and your team) should be doing the “heavy lifting” and working with the consultant to guide you through building an appropriate strategy, designing a good process, and helping you to ensure a smooth transition to operations.

Tools are great and necessary but a successful practice requires people following processes. Tools should accelerate your company’s ability to meet customer needs. However, it will not matter how much money you spend or don’t spend on a tool if the people expect the tool to do something it’s not designed to do. A fool with a tool is still a fool.

In my next post, I’ll look at my final five ”truths” that are more about you as an individual rather than a leader of change. In that blog, I’ll explain why a certification doesn’t make you an ITSM practitioner, why you need to be an apprentice, why your journey is unique, why you need to be you, and why you should never stop learning.


Posted by Joe the IT Guy

Joe the IT Guy
Joe the IT Guy

Native New Yorker. Loves everything IT-related (and hugs). Passionate blogger and Twitter addict. Oh...and resident IT Guy at SysAid Technologies (almost forgot the day job!).

4 thoughts on “10 Things You Need to Know to Be a Better ITSM Leader – Part 1”

  1. Avatar Portiqo

    Being a Leader in ITSM is not an easy task, one has to take care of the entire teams action and even if there is one spoilt apple in the bunch then it affects the entire team. These 10 tips will certainly help any ITSM aspirant to perform well.


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