Do you simply want to have your staff pass the ITIL® 4 exam? Or do you want your staff to be able and willing to apply the learning to address a business challenge? If you are more interested in the second option then read further. This article shows the captured learning and takeaways from a team of delegates from a financial organization having participated in an interactive, online business simulation as part of their ITIL® 4 Foundation class. ‘But this makes it 3 days instead of 2 Where is the value in that? Let’s just skip the game and do some additional exam training’ I hear you say.
A business simulation is a form of ‘experiential learning’ or ‘learning-by-doing’. It is aimed at helping students translate ITIL theory into practice. The team participated in the MarsLander simulation, in which they play both the business and IT roles in the Mission Control team for the MarsLander mission. The captured learning and takeaways were focused not just on ITIL® 4 but also on soft skills and behaviors such as communication and collaboration. Skills and behaviors that are critical elements of new ways of working and agile transformations.
In this simulation environment, the team will need to balance increasing demands and opportunities from different stakeholders. Innovating new products and service offerings, optimizing existing business value, managing technical debt as well as aligning and improving end-to-end value streams. There is a lot of competition in the market. Speed and quality count.
The team will be faced with running business as usual as well as Transforming to new agile ways of applying ITSM using ITIL4 concepts. By playing in a number of game rounds and reflecting and improving between rounds the team will also need to apply ‘continual learning and improving’ as a core team capability. Measuring the impact of their continual improvement against business value. All this with scarce resources and time pressure. All of this working remotely – demanding effective communication and collaboration skills.
The organization was already using ITIL v3 but was looking to move to more agile ways of working. Organizational wide initiatives had already been adopted for Lean, Agile and DevOps. ITIL v3 was not seen as supporting and enabling the agile new ways of working. The initiative for ITIL® 4 was also to improve the ‘Professionalization’ of IT with a focus on improving ‘predictability’ ,’customer value’, ‘business results’. This professionalization also necessitated a transformation in IT culture and an improved relationship with the business.
New corporate cultural values had been defined to both shape the transformation and to define the behaviors needed for the future. These values being:
At the start of the Foundation training delegates were asked what they were hoping to learn. The majority were attending the training because gaining an ITIL certificate was mandatory. None had considered what specific value ITIL®4 would bring to their work as opposed to ITILv3 and none were hoping to address a recognized problem that needed solving using ITIL4. Learning expectations were seen as:
Sending people onto this type of blended training is an ideal opportunity not only to translate ITIL®4 theory into practice but also to explore and experiment with the new corporate culture, values and behaviors that the organization is hoping to achieve. For example:
Leadership: ‘facilitating team to high performance’, ‘empowerment’
Courage: the courage to change, experimentation, Fail fast, fail often and learn from it
Team building: Common purpose, collaboration
The simulation exercise is played in a number of game rounds. This allows delegates to design, apply, reflect and improve iteratively – developing continual learning and improving skills. Between simulation rounds, we reflected on both ITIL theory as well as the cultural aspects of the organization. One of the cultural focus areas is Team building – improving collaboration skills and behaviors. We had the team identify undesirable and desirable behaviors that underpin effective collaboration. Throughout the day the team discovered and practiced the following:
They had developed and agreed these behaviors together. They became ‘the way we want to work together’ forming a new team culture of collaboration, which supports the cultural values of the organization.
At the end of the day, we reflected with the team and asked 3 questions. ‘What did I learn?’, ‘What can I take away and use in my daily work?’ and ‘What do we need to take away (as a team/organization)?’. These were the captured findings:
What did I learn?
What can I use in day to day work?
The above actions can be discussed with the team/line manager as part of the new culture. ‘Leadership’ – managers can practice new skills and behaviors to empower individuals, and ‘Continual improvement’ – employees can be stimulated and supported to make change happen.
These were actions that the team wants to take away and apply more broadly in the organization. These actions can be assigned to the ongoing Transformation program and used as input.
As can be seen a simulation not only helps translate ITIL theory into practice, but it can also be used to experiment and explore new cultural skills and behaviors AND create commitment to apply captured improvement actions – The critical success factor is now to empower and enable delegates to make these improvements in their daily work. So back to the original question. ‘Do you simply want to have your staff pass the ITIL® 4 exam? Or do you want your staff to be able and willing to apply the learning to address a business challenge?’
Authors: Claudine Koers & Paul Wilkinson