by Kenneth Wendle
Date Published August 21, 2019 - Last Updated December 17, 2019

One of the more interesting and practical aspects of ITIL 4 is referred to as “the guiding principles,” described as “recommendations which can guide an organization in all circumstances, regardless of changes in its goals, strategies, type of work, or management structure.”
In his book, Principle Centered Leadership, Stephen R. Covey points out that “there are no ‘quick fixes’ or short-term approaches to solving problems and that we need to understand that there are natural laws or governing principles that underlie our behavior and our very existence as human beings.” Principles, he states, are like compasses in that they point to the correct way and show the direction in which we should move. He also maintains, as echoed in the definition of the ITIL 4 guiding principles, that they are constant; they apply at all times and in all places.

The first of the ITIL 4 guiding principles states “Focus on value.” That sounds simple enough, but there’s considerably more to that simple statement than meets the eye. First, exactly what is meant by value? The definition provided within the ITIL 4 glossary says that value is “the perceived benefits, usefulness and importance of something.” So value, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. 

Tom Peters once correctly declared that “Perception is reality” and the reality of the value of anything comes from the person or persons receiving it. They have determined it is, at least to them, “worth it.” And that is my working definition of value. In other words, if I believe something is worth it to me, it has value.  If I believe it is not worth it, then it doesn’t. The following diagram helps convey this concept.

business value, Value Formula, ITSM

Perception of value may be binary. That is, it either has value or it doesn’t. But of course, there are degrees of value—or lack thereof. Something can be of little value, quite a bit of value, or of tremendous value—it’s REALLY worth it. Alternately, something can be of no value or, in reality, negative value. It not only isn’t worth it, it’s REALLY not worth it.

It is only natural that as both individuals and organizations, we should want to be of value. A quote by Albert Einstein, “Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value” was the genesis of my book, The V*A*L*U*E Formula. When the word success is used, it typically conjures up images of material or financial success. Being of value takes a slightly different path. Providing value to others always brings value back to the giver. But that is not always financial in nature. I would never discount the value of appreciation, respect, or love.

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Within and throughout my career in working with dozens of companies and talking with scores of people, I’ve observed common threads when it comes to value. Five of these common threads are described as the five elements of The V*A*L*U*E Formula, illustrated within the associated V*A*L*U*E Formula model, below.

Value Formula, Ken Wendle, business value, ITSM

The first element is based on the observation that organizations that seem to understand their value and work to continually improve it develop a strong sense of purpose and direction. More often than not, this is encapsulated within their organization’s vision statement. Through their vision, they establish a guiding star, so to speak, to help guide and inspire them. The model depicts vision as a star for that reason.

For example, the service desk within company XYZ is good but wants to up their game to provide more value to the company. They know they have opportunity to improve and want to capture that desire in a simple yet compelling manner. They came up with a value vision: “To become XYZ’s highly trusted and respected source of professional, friendly, courteous, and effective technical service and support.”

Once a value vision is crafted, the important element of alignment comes into play. Those organizations that seem to be serious about their vision and their value tend to put their best efforts toward it. The goals that are set are in support of the vision. The tasks defined and assigned are tied to the vision. This alignment helps ensure that not only are the actions taken effective, they are done in the most efficient manner possible  

In support of its vision, the XYZ service desk realizes they can better align to its vision by ensuring they always meet set expectations in order to build trust. They also discover that they often waste time and resources by confusing incident resolution and handling service requests.

The element of alignment is depicted within the Value Formula model as an arrow, an arrow that supports and is pointed directly at the vision.

The next element is that of leverage.  Again, those organizations that focus on increasing their value look for the ways and means to augment those efforts. Recently, when discussing this concept, a friend said, “Well, if you don’t understand leverage, you’re probably working too hard.” 


Leverage can make a difficult job much easier and a seemingly impossible job possible. From using a crowbar to remove a nail, to using the latest technology to reach an audience, leverage is a powerful concept.

In the Value Formula model, leverage is shown as a diamond-shaped cornerstone. This “diamond” consists of a number of “facets.” For example, we can leverage the skills and knowledge of other people, of organizations, tools and technology, process, best practices, and so on. All these facets represent categories of where we can find and use leverage.

Understanding the facets of leverage leads XYZ’s service desk to the realization that the request management feature in their service desk tool wasn’t being fully utilized and they had been treating incidents and service requests by following the same process for both.

A personal note: In my career, I’ve seen many service and support organizations increase their value by leveraging an affiliation with HDI. Its vast experience, broad research, and amazing conferences, such as like Service Management World, are tremendous resources you can leverage to increase your personal and organizational value.

Within the Value Formula model, opposite the cornerstone of leverage, is another diamond-shaped cornerstone, uniqueness. People and organizations with a value focus recognize that their value proposition is unique to them and they can—and should—capitalize on that uniqueness. Like leverage, there are facets to uniqueness. Environment, policies, people, and culture, among others, are all part of what makes us us.

XYZ’s service desk could discover that a part of their uniqueness is a wide diversity of technicians and a tradition of publicly recognizing when a technician goes above and beyond in support of a customer. In taking inventory of their strengths, they discover that a new technician had advanced training and experience in ITSM best practice—particularly request management—from a previous job.

All of these elements are vital in our pursuit of amplifying our value. But all of them are completely worthless if we cannot consistently execute to deliver our value. Execution, as my late friend and business associate, Jim Duff, once shared with me, is “the secret sauce.”

Until we master the art of getting things done, our vision is just a pipe dream, a castle in the sky with no foundation. And that is exactly how execution is portrayed within the VF model. Execution is foundation upon which all the other elements sit and the element that also holds them together.

Until we master the art of getting things done, our vision is just a pipe dream.
Tweet: Until we master the art of getting things done, our vision is just a pipe dream. @kenwendle @ThinkHDI #ITIL #ITSM

The Service Desk at XYZ established a wildly important goal to formalize and vastly improve their request management practice. They realize that, in the midst of all of the day-to-day must-do activities, a focus on that goal is necessary. It was communicated to each team member what needs to be done and who needs to do it by when. They established critical success factors (CSFs) and leading measurements in the form of key performance indicators (KPIs) to show progress toward the goal’s accomplishment on a simple, clearly visible scoreboard. Lastly, all team members held themselves and each other accountable for accomplishing their assigned tasks. The result: goal accomplished!

One additional critical observation is that organizations that really maximize their value have realized the importance of synergy. Understanding and getting these five elements working for you is important. The results of getting them working together is nothing short of astonishing!

XYZ’s service desk celebrated their success in achieving the goal of formalizing their request management practice in support of their value vision. In addition, they held a post mortem of lessons learned.

After any significant effort, project, or endeavor, ask questions like the following:

  1. What worked the best in this effort?
  2. What could we have done better?
  3. What did we learn to help us get even better?

Take the time think about and craft a value vision that inspires and motivates you. Then commit and align your best efforts in the direction of that vision. Look for ways to augment those efforts through leverage and take advantage of your own special strengths, your uniqueness. Then get to work to make it happen—execute! Learn from your failures, and build on your successes! Always focus on value…and apply the V*A*L*U*E Formula!

A significant figure in the field of service and support, Ken Wendle is an instructor, consultant, speaker, coach, and author of The V*A*L*U*E Formula ™. He is known for pragmatic and insightful advice. He is a past member of the HDI Strategic Advisory Board and helped launch the Service Management World conference as a member of its Advisory Board. Ken was recognized for his valuable contributions to the industry and pivotal role in creating awareness, adoption, and global expansion of ITIL and ITSM best practices. He has been awarded the itSMF USA Lifetime Achievement Award as well as the HDI Ron Muns Lifetime Achievement Award. His entertaining presentations have been enjoyed nationally and internationally. Follow him on Twitter @kenwendle, and connect with him on LinkedIn.

Tag(s): supportworld, business value, service management, ITIL, ITSM


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