Is ITIL missing a supportive culture?

In my experiences of achieving outcomes with various methodologies, I’ve noticed variations in the promotion of a supportive organisational culture. Organisational culture is the collection of values and norms that are shared within a company, which influence the behaviour of company employees (Hill et all, 2007, p298).

In ITIL, organisational culture is referenced as a pre-requisite check prior to implementing a number of processes or functions (Cabinet Office, 2011, p324). There does not appear to be any specific culture promoted or reinforced. With respect to Continual Service Improvement (CSI), the ITIL glossary defines it as a stage in the lifecycle of an IT Service and the title of one of the core ITIL publications. ITIL does make a small acknowledgement of culture by referring to culture as the heart of the matter or a key issue in implementing CSI. Culture could support an implementation (of CSI) or it could be the bearer of resistance.

Other methodologies however place much stronger emphasis and importance on organisational culture. Buchan (2011, n.d.) suggests that Agile is a culture typically demonstrating 15 behaviours, rather than simply a software development methodology with a manifesto, values and practices. In his book "The Toyota Way" Liker (2004, p36) describes Toyota's Production System as a culture, more than just a set of efficiency and improvement techniques. In the 5Ss (sort, stablise, shine, standardise, sustain), sustain requires the necessary education, training and rewards to support the four other continuous improvement activities and only a strong culture can underpin sustain (the fifth S). Throughout this book, Liker continues to draw references on Toyota's culture when discussing its successful production system. In a similar vein, Lean IT is described as a culture of continuous improvement that creates a shared capability which enables people to proactively seek out and solve problems, resulting in superior performance, competitive advantage and bottom-line financial results (Bell, S. C. and Orzen, M. A., 2011, p30).

While ITIL does provide sound ITSM guidance, other methodologies have emphasised and repeatedly reinforced the importance of organisational culture is achieving success. This absence may have been a deliberate strategy on behalf of the authors of ITIL. Regardless of the reason, if ITSM practitioners need guidance on securing a supportive organisational culture then I recommend seeking that guidance from other sources.

Bell, S. C., and Orzen, M. A. (2011). Lean IT. New York, USA: Productivity Press.

Buchan, M. (2011). Retrieved December 2, 2012 from

Cabinet Office (2011). Service Strategy. London, UK: TSO

Hill, C. W. L., Jones, G. R., Galvin, P., and Haider, A. (2007). Strategic Management An Integrated Approach (2nd ed.) Milton, Australia: John Wiley and Sons Australia Ltd.

Liker, J. K. (2004). The Toyota Way. New York, USA: McGraw-Hill.


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