9 Guiding Principles for Service Management Leaders


by Stuart Rance
January 23, 2018

If you’re involved in any aspect of service management, then you are probably familiar with the many challenges involved in delivering services effectively. It’s all too easy to get bogged down in the detail and to focus on what’s current rather than the things that are actually most important to your organization and your customers. This is where guiding principles come in. It’s impossible to overstate the value of appropriate guiding principles in helping help you make effective decisions, decisions that will ensure you deliver value to your customers. Ideally, these will be principles that everyone in your team knows and accepts, which means that you need you make the time to discuss them with your team and write them down. In other words, you need everybody to contribute to a shared vision of what you want to achieve.

Stuart Rance and Lou Hunnebeck will deliver Service Leadership’s 9 Guiding Principles at HDI 2018.
Learn more and register today!

Lou Hunnebeck and I were both authors of the latest ITIL publication ITIL Practitioner Guidance, which describes the nine guiding principles for service management. We know that they can help you to think more effectively about the service you deliver for your customers and help you to plan improvements.

Here’s a brief overview of the nine ITIL guiding principles for you to think about and discuss with your teams. Adopting them can make a big difference to how you approach your work and can increase the value you create for your customers. In fact, increasing the value you create for customers is the subject of our first guiding principle.

1. Focus on Value

It seems obvious doesn’t it? Everything you do must create value for your organization and its customers or the effort is wasted. If you’re doing things that don’t create value, then you need to ask yourself why; and you need to seriously consider what you can do to reduce this wasted effort.

2. Design for Experience

But don’t think about value too narrowly. The bottom line is vital, but customers don’t just want financial value. Every interaction with a customer or a user contributes to their experience of your services. It is an opportunity to impress, and you need to make the most of this. In an increasingly competitive marketplace, making sure you give your customers the best experience of IT that you can will help you to retain them.

3. Start Where You Are

If you need to improve how you work (and every organization has some areas that need development), don’t just throw away everything you’ve done already and start again. There will always be some things that you are doing well. Make sure you know what they are, and build on them. Not only is this approach less wasteful than starting from scratch—because it preserves value that you already have—but it also helps you to keep your people on board. They are much more likely to support the changes you need if their previous contributions have been appropriately valued.

4. Work Holistically

Remember that when you make changes they can have a wide impact; if you haven’t thought carefully about this, the impact can be far wider and less helpful that you had anticipated. This is because a local optimization can have repercussions further down the line that result in worse overall service. So, don’t improve one process, or one team, or one piece of technology, without thinking about how this affects everything around it. You need to understand the impact on the whole system before you make changes.

5. Progress Iteratively

Experience tells us that multi-year improvement projects that involve large investment and only deliver value after a very long time rarely deliver the value that was anticipated. So, it’s better not to do that, even if you are planning a big change. Instead, remember that even a very large improvement can be broken down into multiple small changes that will each result in measurable gains. If you approach big improvement projects that way, you can create some value quickly and continue to create value at every step of the way towards your vision.

6. Observe Directly

Nothing beats first-hand experience, so don’t just rely on reports and abstract data. Go to where the work happens to see for yourself. Talk to the people doing the work, and ask them about it.

7. Be Transparent

When you hide things from people, they inevitably find out in the end, and the loss of trust can have a greater impact than whatever difficulty you were trying to conceal in the first place. If you are transparent with your customers, your suppliers, and your colleagues, you can build and maintain an environment of trust that allows everyone to work together to maximize the value you create.

8. Collaborate

People who work in silos can get very good at performing specific tasks. But when tasks change, or something outside the immediate skill set happens, they are instantly at a disadvantage. And since you can’t do everything yourself, that’s something that’s going to happen a lot. Organizations need to foster collaboration. When people collaborate, everyone benefits. You create more value for yourself, more value for the people you collaborate with, and more value for your mutual customers and partners. People working together can create much greater value than people working in silos.

People working together can create much greater value than people working in silos.
Tweet: People working together can create much greater value than people working in silos. @stuartrance @ThinkHDI #ITIL #ITSM

9. Keep It Simple

Finally, keep it simple. Don’t do anything that isn’t necessary. Focus on the simple things that create value, rather than on following complex processes that have been in use for a long time and that nobody remembers the reason for.

Take a Chance

Lou Hunnebeck and I will share examples of how the ITIL guiding principals have worked in practice for a number of different IT organizations when we deliver our session at HDI 2018. But you don’t have to take our word for it. Try them for yourself, and see what a difference it makes to you, your organization, and, most of all, your customers.


Stuart Rance is a consultant, trainer, and author with an international reputation as an expert in IT service management and information security management. He was an author for ITIL Practitioner, lead author of RESILIA: Cyber Resilience Best Practice, and author of ITIL Service Transition. Stuart is chief examiner for RESILIA, an examiner for ITIL, and an instructor for ITIL, CISSP, and many other topics. Follow him on Twitter @stuartrance.


Tag(s): supportworld, service management, ITIL, ITSM, leadership

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