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Theory Versus Reality

Mary Schmidt

Apr 11, 2012

This morning, I attended the NM Technology Council’s ITIL Working Group kick-off meeting.  I was jazzed to see so many people - from so many different types of organizations.  (I was also grateful they started at the very civilized hour of 9:00. I was able to actually form complete sentences, having had my morning caffeine infusion.)

(ITIL is Information Technology Infrastructure Library, a set of practices for managing IT services that aligns those services with the needs of a business or organization.  If you’ve ever done services development and management, you’ve done most if not all of it.  When I looked at the handy-dandy chart, it was like reading one of my old corporate job descriptions.)

Process is terrific…properly implemented and - yes - practiced.  But the most important “p” isn’t in the ITIL definition.  People. Those irrational, emotional human beings that can come up with problems nobody in service delivery ever dreamed of…(Talk to some old help desk hands; the user stories are often hilarious and sometimes downright scary.)

As we listed what we wanted to do in the group, I suggested “Theory Versus Reality.”  You can have the best processes in the world, plan until your eyeballs bleed, and produce gantt charts that are sheer wonders…and then all hell breaks loose.  The CEO decides he/she doesn’t want to do that.  The customers don’t follow the process (“What’s their problem?  We tell them in writing what to do!”)  Equipment that has a MTBF (Mean Time Between Failure) of 999.99 years…breaks after 9 minutes. Nobody (neither service provider nor customer) reads the SLA (Service Level Agreements) and if they do, I can assure you they have different interpretations of “best effort.”  And so it goes.

So, certainly, learn TQM, Six Sigma, ITIL…whatever will help you do your job better…but don’t mistake theory for reality.  (After I finished TQM training at one corporate gig, I showed up at a planning meeting all primed to do the TQM thang…only to be told by the big boss “We don’t have time for that.”  See? People.wink

P.S. This also applies to MBA classes.

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