ITIL and Not Invented Here Syndrome

IT people have an inborn desire to innovate and find creative solutions to problems. It’s no surprise, then,  that they also have a healthy disdain for someone else’s ‘Best Practices’.  Understand Not-Invented-Here Syndrome (NIH) response to ITIL, and you have a strategic advantage for success!

ITIL Overcome Not Invented Here Syndrome
Lay down a good challenge to technical people, take off the shackles, and watch them attack the problem with reckless abandon. They’ll work nights and weekends to come up with a solution to a problem. The harder and more relevant the problem is to the company, the more enthusiasm they’ll throw at it.

But when asked to implement “best practices” established and documented by unknown ‘others’, the energy evaporates.  NIH drains the life out of such efforts, and, perhaps, more than anything else, undermines an otherwise well planned and executed Service Management program.

In the world of technology, there are stars and celebrities – many with riveting stories of how they thumbed their noses at the established norm, and altered the industry with their creativity. Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard, Larry Ellison, Linus Torvalds, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg; all revolutionaries in their own right, each making their own mark on the history of technology.

These, and many more, are our heroes and we respect them, at least to some degree, for their against-the-grain boldness and creativity. These guys created best practices, not adopted them.

Enter ITIL – by very definition a framework of best practices, said to be collected from  above-average organizations. “How can we be the very best if we implement the collective practices of others?”  I’ve heard ITIL described as “good practices” – implying that its OK for the masses, but definitely not the way to be amongst the best.

But it’s a hard argument to maintain. The same could be said in the field of music – musical notation is simply a shared best practice – a common framework. The National Electrical Code is in essence a collection of good practices; certainly not the only way to wire houses.  Neither musicians nor electricians are great because of them; rather, excellence is built upon them.

Not a lot of organizations these days are writing their own operating systems,  constructing routers, or generating their own electricity. Far more commonly, technologists start with the best, most appropriate components, and assemble relevant solutions  to meet their organization’s unique business needs.

Should IT Processes be any different?

Addressing Not Invented Here Syndrome

1. You’re doing everything wrong

I’ve never seen an IT organization that had no best practices. ITIL programs must never allow staff to feel as if it’s being implemented because they’re ‘doing everything wrong’. Take the time to understand the culture and particular challenges and constraints an IT organization faces. Remember, those creative and innovative staff are more-than-likely the very people who developed and have been faithfully executing the existing processes. Look for things the organization is doing well, and genuinely recognize them. Seek to engage IT staff’s creativity in maturing those processes using ITIL best practices. Set excellent customer service as the goal, and unleash your staff to figure out how to do so, while addressing the unique challenges, needs, and constraints of your organization.

2. ITIL is the answer to all our problems

ITIL must never be sold as the solution to all problems. It’s simply not true, and technical staff will instinctively know this. ITIL will never be a replacement for smart and dedicated staff. As with musicians, ITIL is the foundation upon which great people produce excellent results for their business.  Understand and recognize the strengths of your team, and consistently reiterate that they are the answer to your organization’s challenges.  Do not make implementing ITIL The Goal.

3. ITIL must be implemented exactly by The Book

I don’t know who started this hideous rumor, but I hope I never meet them. They’ve done more damage to the value of ITIL than all other factors combined. I wonder if they’ve read The Books.

On the other hand, well intended ITIL consultants and practitioners subtly reinforce this message by too-frequent references to The Book, and often suggesting that processes be adopted as in The Book – “to start with”.  By-the-book is a direct NIH trigger for many, as it summarily dismisses not only their previous efforts, but also their creativity and desire to innovate.

Challenge staff to use  their knowledge and experience, combined with the best ITIL has to offer to implement best practices that  address your customers’ unique needs.

Not Invented Here Syndrome flows logically from the very nature of technical staff. Rather than working against NIH, harness it’s power to propel your Service Management program forward!

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