Continual Improvement in ITIL4

When we think about the scope of how big continual improvement is, it can be a bit daunting to undertake. After all we are talking about creating value for all of our customers, stakeholders and partners. In ITIL4 this involves:

  • Continual improvement model through its seven steps
  • Improve service value chain activity
  • Continual improvement practice.

So to break it into consumable amounts of basic questions let’s look at the improvement model. Its seven steps outlines:

  • What is the vision?
  • Where are we now?
  • Where do we want to be?
  • How do we get there take action and
  • Did we get there?
  • How do we keep the momentum going?

It’s important to keep in mind is that these steps or questions are really all requirements for lasting improvements to be made. With any part missing we will likely miss the mark.

What is the vision?

Understanding what the vision is in terms that people get is important. In some cases the breakdown of the vision might sound slightly different depending on the business unit or team but they should all have people moving in the same direction. When we convey what the vision will be we should consider:

  • High-level direction
  • Stakeholders and their roles and how they fit into the improvement initiative
  • The expected value we will see as a result of the improvement

If we miss this activity we will likely not see organizational improvements but only those in specific business units or teams

Where are we now?

In any solid improvement initiative we need to know where we are starting from. A key element of this step is a current state assessment. The current state assessment includes:

  • The assessment of existing services
  • Understanding the organization’s culture to decide what level of organizational change management is required.

Missing this step you will not be able to understand the current state and measure the baseline making it hard to outline the effectiveness of the Improvement activities

Where do we want to be?

Some might say this is the most work in any improvement. Using the first two questions to guide us we should be able to perform a gap analysis. This will give us scope of what we will need to do to realize out improvement vision. We should be able to outline one or more activities to get us to the ‘to be’ state.

Without this we really won’t know what the target state will look like, resulting in pushback from the business or teams not supporting the work at all.

How do we get there?

The most effective approach to make improvements may not be clear, but it will enable you to try out a few things in an iterative way. Learn to fail fast and then learn from failures.

Not doing this could result in poor execution of the improvement initiatives.

Take action

A plan for taking the action for the improvement is created and should be looked from an agile approach. This will allow the improvements to either achieve what we are looking for iteratively or not produce the desired results and allow teams to pivot on this and make any necessary corrections quickly. During the improvement you need to be continually focus on measuring progress towards the vision and managing risks as well as ensuring visibility and overall awareness of the initiative.

Did we get there?

A step that might be less than celebrated in many organizations is to ensure we completed the work we set out to do. Understanding what went well as well as what obstacles we faced and overcame is important as we can apply them to future improvement initiative later.

Not going through this exercise will make it difficult to see if the if outcomes were actually achieved and any lessons from the situation which would support a course correction if needed will be lost

Keeping it going

The focus of the last step is to market the successes and reinforce the newly-introduced methods to all the stakeholders. This helps to build momentum for the next improvement initiative. To help facilitate this long terms both organizational change management and knowledge management practices should be used. This will include making these improvements operational through leaders and managers. If the expected results of the improvement do not go as planned, this isn’t a failure, just another chance to learn but this must be shared and not kept a secret.

If this is not done it’s likely that improvements will remain isolated initiatives and any progress may be lost again over time

Continual Improvement is important for an organization for various reasons. Business environments and technologies are changing at a rapid pace and if an organization is not evolving their services they may become obsolete. Services provided by the organization must be continually reviewed and updated to ensure that they add value. To maximize the effectiveness of services each person who contributes to a service should keep continual Improvement in mind and always look for opportunities to improve.


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