The ITSM Diet

krispyI am undergoing a very personal transformational change right now. I am trying to learn how to eat in the real world and maintain a healthy weight. I had really let myself go.

No exercise, eating too much, eating the wrong things and not caring. The results: 360 lbs.; the inability to walk at least 50 feet without wheezing; acid reflux; and an impressive expanding waistline. I felt horrible. My body simply hurt all the time.

After much self-loathing, I made the decision to change. Now, I control my calories, carbs, fat and protein levels and I get 60 to 90 minutes of exercise in a minimum of 5 days per week. I made my health issues a “big rock” in my life (see Stephen Covey’s “Put your big rocks in first”).

The results: I currently weigh 320 lbs., I’ve lost 4 inches on my waist, and I feel a heck of a lot better.

The funny thing in all of this, people keep asking me what “diet” I’m using. Okay, here it is –  I eat less, make better food choices, and exercise as much as I can. Disappointed with my answer? I find that many folks are looking for me to give them some “magical” advice like “oh, I lost the weight by following the Krispy Kreme diet”. There are no silver bullets. You have to eat right and exercise.

So, what’s the point in relation to ITSM?

The point is this; you must build and follow a plan for an ITSM initiative to work. There are no simple solutions or silver bullets to make adoption easy. Be prepared to work hard, suffer some failures, learn from those failures and iterate, just like you do with a diet.

In order to be successful in ITSM adoption (or in your diet) I recommend following the key “exercise and eating” tips and advice listed below.

Don’t fall for hype

“Just follow our simple x step plan every day, and we’ll guarantee you will lose weight”

I’ve seen ITSM blog posts and consulting statements that indicate the same thing “…just follow our advice and you’ll be doing x process in no time” or “buy our product and we guarantee you will be ITIL compliant”. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Any offering of a “quick fix” probably will not work. Think about the long term and what you want the program to achieve. Learn good habits.

Always evaluate

I don’t do “diets” but there are items within the multitude of diet plans out there that do make sense for for certain individuals. ITSM is no different.

If something works, adopt it. If it doesn’t, forget it. For example, Problem management as detailed in ITIL® doesn’t fit well with how my organization works. We therefore adopted LEAN 8-step method as the primary way to execute our problem management but use the information in ITIL® to ensure our process is as robust as needed.

Build a plan that works for you and helps you achieve your goals

There are many ITSM frameworks out there and no rules that say you have to use a specific one. My advice is that you read, learn, and research.

You may need to use ITIL®, LEAN, COBIT®, USMBOK®, and/or combinations of the aforementioned to build your plan. Don’t do something just because someone else says you should do it. Know what you are trying to achieve and select the appropriate framework to work toward it.

For example, my company uses many different frameworks along with ISO/IEC 20000, with ISO/IEC 20000 as an indicator of “world class” IT operations. Despite this, we have attempted on four different occasions to start the adoption process for Configuration Management. What we found is teams did not understand what to do with CIs or how to move them through a change process. We therefore took a step back and spent more time looking at our Change process, and are now starting to have tabletop discussions on moving a CI through a change.

In doing this exercise, we found our teams had different execution of change, different ideas on what a CI is, and different ideas on how to move a CI through a change cycle. These discussions gave us the opportunity to drop back and review all the frameworks for a “good fit” to help accelerate what we do.

If the plan is not working, change it

When exercising, eventually your body can become use to a specific exercise and become efficient in the activity. At that point, you can continue doing the same thing, but the results will not improve. An ITSM plan is the same. If your plan is not getting the results you desire, mix it up and try a different approach. Focus on a specific aspect and find the change that helps you get the results you need.

During the adoption of incident management at my company, we had team members onboard who had been doing incident work for many years and yet our design process kept missing key steps we needed to fulfill ISO/IEC 20000 requirements. Clearly we needed a different approach and so we went back to the beginning and built a checklist of items that the design team needed to complete prior to submitting deliverables. This helped us to identify the missing steps and fix the design process.


When it comes to exercising and being healthy, my FitBit gives me all types of data to help me determine if my behaviors match my plan. Data helps us measure where we are against our goals, which is important in any ITSM initiative.

What you measure is up to you, you cannot allow others to dictate what data you need to collect. Identify your goals, and collect and analyze data that helps you reach those goals.

At my company, we ask our service owners to identify “pain points”, the place where their team or their customers indicate something in the process doesn’t deliver the promised goods and/or causes them problems. We have found that focusing on a few key measures and “pain points” leads the service owner and their teams to think more holistically about the service and why they are doing what they do. This organically leads to continuous improvement, brainstorming and discussion about user experience.

Keep the goal in mind

It is easy to get discouraged when you go a couple of weeks without losing any weight, and the same is true in ITSM. Don’t lose sight of what you have done and where you are now.

Sometimes it may seem easier to follow the same path as you always have and get the same (bad) results to achieve quick “outcomes”, but how does this help overall? Remember, incremental improvements over time lead to reaching goals.


One of the toughest issues I have with weight loss is overthinking the situation – I can become my own worst enemy. The same is true with your ITSM plan. Work the plan you built, and if something doesn’t work so what? Try something new! Be mindful of your situation and don’t be afraid to change. It will all work out in the end so just remember to breath and relax.

And a bonus tip!

Be as transparent as possible in any ITSM initiative or project, routinely discussing your success, failure, trails, and tribulations. This will help you to stay grounded and on top of where you really are in your process/project. Use your measurements to remind yourself and others of the progress you have made and make sure you understand the deliverables and timeframes.

Final Though

ITSM adoption, just like maintaining a healthy lifestyle, can be tough. It takes planning and execution, measurement and analyzing data, and it also takes support. Remember, don’t fall for the hype; always evaluate; build a plan that works for your situation and change it as required; measure your progress; relax; and always keep your end goal in mind.

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6 thoughts on “The ITSM Diet”

  1. One of my favorites: “You may need to use ITIL®, LEAN, COBIT®, USMBOK®, and/or combinations of
    the aforementioned to build your plan. Don’t do something just because
    someone else says you should do it. Know what you are trying to achieve
    and select the appropriate framework to work toward it.”

    Quality! Great post.

  2. Great Post Earl. Love the analogy.

    One thing I think should be noted in your analogy is the “Pain Point” focus. Even the most fit persons still have pain points. Apparently, mine are love handles. One way to fix physical morphosis is to take a picture of your body and literally circle the areas you want to fix. Then take a picture of the body you want to have and visualize it as you work out. This helps you perform the right exercises to make your projected improvements. For example, people with skinny elbows probably need to perform more tricep based work-outs. By visualizing the arms they want to have, the subconscious can actually tone the body to that likeness.

    Bringing this back2itsm. Companies I have interacted with rarely have had that honest reflection of their pain points. They may say we have a failed problem management process (e.g. skinny elbows). Yet they have not taken a total body picture and circled it.
    In this case, they may not be associating CI’s to their incidents, or have a clean and effective categories list. (e.g. working the triceps). Thus they fail to realize that Problem may not be their pain point, but the result of a lack of exercise in Incident, Change and Config.

    Diet: Intakes and Output
    Exercise: Execution of Activities
    Plan: Commitment and Schedule
    Goal: Visualization

    Once disagreement I do have with your blog is the prescriptive components. Do X and you’ll get Y. I believe in ITSM there are a lot of areas where this is true.

    As a person who has used P90X and Insanity workout programs and seen the benefits of it. I believe that having a routined plan on how you document your configurations, changes, incidents and projects can systematically show benefits regardless of what industry or level of maturity your organization is at.

    Like the programs I mentioned, you have to go at your own pace, and adapt the exercises. Failing to do so can cause injury. ITSM implementations require the same level of common sense and review.

    Thanks again Earl for sharing.

    1. Matt, thanks for the feedback. I really like the analogy of “take the picture” and I’m going to borrow liberally 🙂

      I see your point regarding the prescriptive components and I agree with your perspective. In some cases, there can be success in do x and get y, but I think back to parent statements of “…eat vegetables and you’ll grow up big and strong…” I guess I’m too much of a cynic because my gut response is “Really? Prove it!”

      Let’s say that in 90 days of doing P90X you saw little or no change or in trying to do P90X you continually get injured – would you continue and would you feel that you are moving toward y?

      Regardless, I agree that you have to move at a pace good for you and adapt to fit your set of needs.

      Common sense…Can I get an industrial size container of that? 🙂

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