Both ITIL and lean working are about controlling processes, standardization and continuous improvement. Theoretically, they should go along together very well, but this is not so. Where ITIL is focusing on process control and standardization of the offered services, lean working focuses on standardized processes in a demand-driven service environment.
|Is highly hierarchic regarding power of decision, everybody is responsible for his own result.||Knows a strong organizational hierarchy, where everybody is responsible for the total result.|
|Works in functional teams per function, role or specialism.||Works in product teams, where every (operational) discipline is represented.|
|Acts SLA-based.||Acts based on added value for the customer.|
|Knows performance indicators based on the activity type.||Knows performance indicators based on the product group.|
|Improvements / prolongations / renewals / new services are to be set up front by a manager appointed up front and are a result of negotiations between customer and service provider.||Improvements can come from everyone within the company. Prolongations, renewals and new services are demanded by the customer. The management must give clearance before improvements with a high impact are implemented.|
|To deviate from the SLA is almost impossible due to the lead time for making decisions per functional team or function.||To deviate from the SLA can happen because the lead time for making decisions is heavily decreased when working in a product team.|
|Is based on best practices of other, similar, companies or departments within the own company.||Based on extensively tested solutions, whether best practices or completely new.|
ITIL comes from the era when the IT department decided which hardware and software was provided at which service level, in a time when the customer (the end user) did not have the same automation possibilities at home as there is today. These times are gone, and more and more users have access to the latest software, hardware and gadgets. The somewhat old-fashioned and rigid attitude coming from ITIL should therefore be traded for a much more flexible attitude, Lean IT.
One of the obstacles to a more flexible attitude is “how it used to be”. The current specialists and decision makers in IT come from an age when they were leading, not following. Therefore, a lean IT transition should start on the highest level. After all, the current quick changes and the sluggishness in making decisions according to ITIL (too much roles and functions, to little coherence, the ‘batch and queue’ thinking) cause the adjustment in the CMBD or SLA being ancient even before the adjustment is approved.
We use the computer freely, as a tool, and try not to be pushed around by it. But we reject dehumanization caused by computers and the way they can lead to higher costs.
– Taiichi Ohno, Toyota Production System: beyond large scale production
Product teams and the CIO
In a lean company it is much more important to standardize the processes instead of the deliverables, and because the product teams exist of people of several disciplines and possibly more roles, a decision can be made much quicker regarding existing, improved and new products. Then, the CIO can make a far better decision on the acceptance of a product plan, based on the information provided and completed with the financial knowledge needed. This makes IT leading instead of following again.
By creating product teams, functions and/or roles can be merged, so a number of functions and/or roles can be removed. It is then mandatory for the employees left to be able to make decisions to a certain extent, or the CIO should attend any product team meetings on a regular basis. There is another side to the removal of functions / roles as well: the importance of being responsible as a team must be emphasized. Since everybody is responsible, everybody is to act or take responsibility for all tasks. The remaining roles and functions also should be interpreted in a different way as well, to adjust to the lean-transition of the organization. In all cases, the added value of the role, function of employee behind this must be crisp clear to the customer.
Always the latest?
In the book Toyota Production System: Beyond large-scale production (production (ISBN 9780915299140, 1988), Mr. Taiichi Ohno tells that he continuously asks himself whether it was efficient (cost-effective) to buy new machines to decrease the need for human labor. In a production environment, this is not necessarily so; older and well-maintained machines can do the job as good as new machines, because there is no need for batch production thanks to the JIT principle. Also, there are production errors which can be perceived better by humans, and humans should be able to stop the production when errors occur (autonomation).
In service oriented companies, it works basically the same. Knowledge workers really do not need a new computer with the latest software versions annually. On the other hand, what is important, is that innovation is not blocked by system administrators who do not want innovation and / or improvement (for example, the resistance when Windows 8 was introduced) or financial advisers who’s main concern is to keep the figures as high as possible. According to Womack and Jones (Lean Thinking, ISBN 9780743231640, 2003): the eighth waste is underutilizing people. So employees must be enabled to perform according to their duty.
The huge technical innovations make it possible that the IT department falls behind compared to her customers. Especially the gadget lovers and the so-called “early adapters” of new technologies often have newer devices and software accordingly than offered within the company. This trend translates into a BYO or CYO policy, which raises the question if company data is safe on these ‘own’ devices. To block the developments is useless, and to prohibit the usage in the office is a no-go. Instead of reacting scornful or rigid, the IT-staff could proactively respond by keeping an eye on the news and especially to ask themselves whether the new developments will affect their services and if so, to which level.
Efficiency is simply a matter of doing work using the best methods known, not the worst.
– Henry Ford
When your company is not ready yet to move to getting lean, there is no need to disregard ITIL, processes, because I believe that it has a certain value, especially within the Service Level Management. ITIL however should be supportive to the company processes, instead of leading, and this is where I think it goes wrong more than once. When going lean, the philosophy will replace the need for ITIL processes.
In every case: all actions must be preceded by the question: ‘what are the costs the customer would want to pay for if the complete process was known?’), in short, they must have an added value for the customer. If not, then just don’t perform the actions.
Inspiration and sources:
Lean Thinking, 2nd edition – Womack & Jones
Toyota Production System: beyond large scale production – Taiichi Ohno