From a recent HDI webinar, here’s advice for how to help your organization keep an open mind to a new way of doing things.

by Tim McElgunn
February 23, 2023

This is the third of three articles focused on key ideas from Beyond ITSM: Leveraging ITSM to Deliver Value Across Your Entire Organization, a webinar sponsored by Freshworks. HDI hosted a great discussion with Roy Atkinson, Valence Howden, and Ken Gonzalez on the benefits and challenges of extending service management concepts and practices beyond IT. In the hour-long conversation, we discussed how expanding service management from ITSM to enterprise service management (ESM) impacts employees in and outside the IT department and what new training focus is needed to support those employees.

In this part of our discussion, we took a look at the cultural issues and attitudes that often underlie successful adoption of ESM. And make no mistake, service management success is enabled and defined by organizational culture. Getting buy-in and overcoming inertia or resistance requires understanding how people think about the work they are being asked to do. In ITSM terms, you have to know where you are before you can start from where you are.

Service management 101 - Know where you are

Helping people understand what you’re trying to achieve and understanding the culture and the behaviors that drove decisions is critical, said Howden.

“If I know they’re resistant because we've tried it fourteen times and it's failed, I'm going to approach that differently than, ‘I just like the way I work.’ So, if I understand where [resistance] comes from, I can tailor how I approach it.”

Ken Gonzalez likes to think of the “start from where you are” approach as an antidote to what he calls “hazardous attitudes.” While it is important to know where you are starting from, Gonzalez noted, “the hazardous attitude is ‘I must know everything about everything before I can get started.’”

Indeed, the process of preparing for and moving ESM forward is, at its heart, an exploration. You must start having conversations that help stakeholders to come to new realizations about how service management can support and enhance the organization’s mission, Gonzalez said.

Enterprise service management success starts with exploration

These kinds of conversations aren’t easy. They require people to go into a very fuzzy and unfamiliar state, where a sense of certainty might be missing, Gonzalez said. He said there is a benefit to this uncertainty. When people are engaged in exploration, when they are looking ahead and focused on discovery, attitudes often shift from fixating on all the things they don’t know to excitement over the chance to learn new things.

Atkinson emphasized the importance of building a culture that is open to change and nurturing the “beginner’s mind,” or the ability to start with a blank slate.

“One of the things that we do as advisors and consultants is go into an organization and say show me what you do,” he said. “Walk through it with them and just be open, don't make any judgments.”

Beginner’s mind and freedom to make mistakes

Seeing how things work right now, without immediately thinking about what can or should change, usually provides valuable insight, and can lessen the chance of creating resistance before you’ve really even started.

“A lot of times you’re going to be doing ‘doggy twisty head’ because you can't quite figure out what they're doing or why, but that's okay,” Atkinson said. “If you do that - start where you are and have that beginner's mind - you're going to learn and you're going to convey knowledge as well.”

Howden amplified the need for open and safe communication.

“You also need an organization that is open to learning and doesn't blame people for things,” he said. “If I'm gonna get in trouble if this [ESM] thing doesn't work this certain way, I'm going to be a lot more resistant to it.”

Abstracting ESM outcomes from processes

Finally, while IT is always going to be deeply involved in any ESM-enabled transformation, service management typically cannot be applied in precisely the same way to the various needs and challenges facing different areas of the business.

What is important, Atkinson said, is to think in terms of analogies. To achieve some quick wins that will help get everyone thinking in terms of how they can apply service management principles, look for problems or processes that are similar, but not exactly the same. Then you can identify where the lessons learned in adopting and refining ITSM can be scaled across the organization.

“Don’t force the form on it, but try to see the function as an abstract” that allows you to separate the desired results from the specific steps that worked for IT, Atkinson said,

Gonzalez said he would be very cautious about how to position ESM. “When we say ITSM, it brings up all sorts of notions about all the process and all of the other things that get associated with it, when at the end of the day you may not necessarily need all of those things in order to be able to deliver successfully against what the ESM outcome or objective is.”

By focusing on the outcome rather than the process, he said, you can find the right mix of all of the skills and competencies needed to meet the real business need, and to leverage IT’s experience in applying service management concepts and practices to achieve similar goals.

Tag(s): supportworld, support models, enterprise service management

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