Resistance to ITIL — a Reboot

A while back we featured a post on resistance to ITIL that presented the top types of resistances to ITIL experienced by a survey group. To show that we believe in continual improvement, we decided to revisit that post and add a bit more information.

Reason #10 – When other issues have “higher priority” compared to implementing ITIL

This is a reality in any organization. Every program and project that an organization pursues competes for limited financial and human resources. Those programs and projects that demonstrate clear value tend to prevail, whereas those that don’t shouldn’t receive precious organizational resources. In our experience, those ITIL programs that show clear benefits to the business have a better chance of avoiding this type of resistance.

Reason #9 – Throwing ITIL solutions over the wall and hoping that people will follow them

ITIL is a collection of reference manuals. Not everything in each ITIL core book applies to all organizations. Those who truly understand ITIL understand that you must pull from it the things that are most valuable rather than attempting to force the organization to follow something that is not a truly a fit.

Reason #8 – No specific value

We are all in the business of providing services, whether we “follow ITIL” or not. It’s only when we realize that the services we provide offer some value and we’re able to communicate and demonstrate that value that an organization will fully support ITIL.

Reason #7 – Resistance to change

Resistance to change is natural. We all do it. The difference between organizations that succeed at ITIL and those that fail is that the ones that succeed recognized that people and organizations are resistant to change, and they planned for way to manage and address that resistance. It’s much better to be honest up front about this and plan for it than it is to wait for the resistance to happen and have to adjust without planning.

Reason #6 – IT does not understand the business needs and operations

In the case of this type of resistance it’s typical for IT to think it “knows” what the business needs rather than speak to the business about what it needs. Organizations that avoid this type of resistance do so by building relationships with the business and having earnest conversations about business requirements and IT’s preparedness to meet those requirements.

By the way, I know I’ve worked with people over the years that had no idea what their organization’s true business was. Their world was whatever server they administered or application they supported. There is a strong urge to do this because of the need to protect one’s job; however, it tends to have the opposite effect.

Reason #5 – when people think ITIL itself is an objective versus a means for achieving something else

The need for service management only ends when the business stops changing. Unfortunately, when businesses stop changing and adapting to their environment, they typically go out of business. There is not an “end” to ITIL, rather, there is a cycle of continuous, iterative improvements that results in a long-term increase in an organization’s capabilities. Over time, organizations that follow service management best practices become more nimble and produce higher quality and lower cost goods and services. ITIL itself is never an objective. Being able to support a competitive business that can quickly adapt to changes is.

Reason #4 – Lack of a continual improvement cycle

A continual improvement cycle that follows ITIL best practices encourages the organization to take expansive, unachievable things, and decompose those into a series of achievable activities that can be measured and completed iteratively. Organizations that avoid this type of resistance tend to embrace the Deming Cycle and understand that a lot can be accomplished in an organization if we break complex things down into achievable and measurable series of related tasks.

Reason #3 – Pessimistic view of ITIL and its effectiveness

This type of resistance typically originates from a lack of true knowledge about ITIL, what it is, and how it can be practically applied. A hint about how to address this resistance: pick a training provider interested in transferring knowledge about ITIL, its benefits, its pitfalls, and practical aspects relative to your organization, and you will have a better chance of mitigating this type of resistance.

Reason #2 – People say they will do something but don’t

This isn’t unique to ITIL.  People make commitments all the time that they fail to honor. In our experience, organizations that avoid this type of resistance tend to do so through continuous communication to the various stakeholders, in many different forms, about the activities of the program as well its benefits.

Reason #1 – Lack of commitment from management

When significant organizational activities experience a lack of commitment from management, generally very little to no progress is made. This is because in most organizations management ultimately controls people’s raises, bonuses, and opportunities for promotion. Bottom line, if you want people to be on-board, then the organization has to communicate that service management is important and properly incentivize that importance using the tools it has. Otherwise, managers will continue to divert resources to their pet projects, and people will continue to respond to that management direction.

Related Courses
ITIL Training

Additional Resources
Maximizing Success in a Changing Environment – Leadership and Business Skills for IT Professionals
Business Service Management

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