GroundHog day: 40 Years’ worth of ‘Oh No. Not again!’ – Part 1

Publikováno: 12. 6. 2022

Paul Wilkinson, a well-known, highly respected and acclaimed professional, decided to end his rich and very successful career, and retire.

He summarized the main experiences, knowledge, and impressions from his 40-year career and the subsequent process of leaving in an extensive blog, which he made available to us. Given its scope, we will publish it in 4 consecutive sections.

When people leave their jobs, it is not uncommon to have an exit interview. The same has happened to me. Now that I am leaving the IT Industry after some 40 plus years, I have had a couple of exit interviews (video podcasts). Put into a dark room, made to sit on an uncomfortable chair, bright lights are turned on and I am grilled…..I have decided to record the main points in an article.


Because in this article I have summarized 40 years’ worth of discoveries into reasons we in IT struggle to bring about change. At the same time give you tips (representing hundreds of thousands of hours of frustration, effort and waste for thousands of organizations, hoping that these tips will help prevent you making the same mistakes).

I have also turned this blog into a presentation which I will be giving in one last tour of Industry conferences. A last chance to rant, bluster, moan, froth at the mouth and wag my pointy finger and share 10 post-it tips to pin up onto your backlog.

There seem to be 2 key questions that I am asked in the interviews.

Question 1: What are some of the big ‘positive’ changes I have seen in 40 years?

This took me longer to reflect on than the second question. Probably because of my own self adopted role as ‘Pointy-fingered-Grumpy-old-man-in-IT’.

  1. The positive changes are the evolution we have made from:
  2. a focus on Technology (‘Technoids’ who owned and ran mainframes, who communicated in ‘Technobabble’ and ‘Techno speak’ which was gibberish to the business);
  3. to a focus on Process (which somehow morphed into books of bureaucratic processes imposed upon unsuspecting colleagues and users);
  4. to a focus on Service (which often ended up being too internally focused ‘Service catalogues’ and ‘Service levels’ – ‘watermelon: green on the outside, red on the inside’ – which were too internally focused),
  5. to a focus on Performance – The 5th ‘P’ On top of ‘People’, ‘Process’, ‘Product’, ‘Partner’, representing ‘Value’. (Although we recognize this need, we struggle because of our internal perspective, our lack of business understanding and our lack of trust and credibility in terms of delivering value).
  6. to a focus on People – ‘Attitude, Behavior, Culture’ (We recognize the need but still don’t spend enough on developing OCM (Organizational Change Management) and OBM (Organizational Behavior management) skills, coupled with a thinking that a ‘certificate’ equates to ability.
  7. to our most recent focus on Value streams – driven by the emergence of agile, Lean, DevOps and now ITIL4. (Although the value streams are still predominantly ‘code to deploy’ – getting features into production, rather than ‘idea-to-value’).
  8. and finally recognizing the importance of Principles & Values (agile, Lean, DevOps, ITIL4 principles). The recognition that principles underpin the ‘culture change’ buzzword initiatives. Principles can act as the glue to effective collaboration between the SILOed frameworks and continuing ‘Them & Us’ Culture. (But unfortunately, we still do not know how to effectively USE them to drive behaviors and ‘new ways of working’).
  9. We have broken out of (not by choice) the ‘ITIL’ Silo. Suddenly agile, DevOps and Lean emerged.  Great new practices with underpinning ‘principles’, which represented a significant shift in attitudes, behaviors, and culture.  ITIL was seen as out of date. The new ways of working wanted speed and agility, ITIL was focused on ‘Control’ and SILOed processes (I know it was always intended that they be integrated but many ITIL initiatives are SILOed process implementations).  ITIL4 came along, which was a great addition to end-to-end value stream thinking, principles and getting closer to the business to ‘co-create’. But we are still in our ITIL SILO trying to convince the others (agile, DevOps) to ‘let us play too in this new game’!
  10. It is now the most exciting time ever to be in IT. IT is a strategic capability. Digital transformation is the name of the game. It is only going to get better for IT and ITSM, if we play our cards right! If we can really embrace value streams and value stream management and tackle the ABC side of things. In a recent article I wrote ‘State of the Union article, I analyzed a number of Industry reports which revealed that ‘70% of transformation initiatives fall short of their goals’. Which brings me onto the second key question in my exit interview.….’But, what hasn’t changed?’

Question 2: What hasn’t changed in 40 years, and are still barriers?

This represents for me ‘Groundhog Day’. I see the changes coming in ever faster cycles. We still make the same mistakes, and we still don’t focus on doing things differently. As Einstein was quoted as saying ‘We can’t solve a problem with the same thinking that created the problem’ yet we try!

Another quote sometimes attributed to Einstein is ‘Insanity Is Doing the Same Thing Over and Over Again and Expecting Different Results’ – we are very good at this!

That is happening now with ‘70% of Digital transformation initiatives failing to realize the HOPED-for value’?

I could have predicted this with my Crystal ball.

It was bound to happen!

I don’t know this because I am smart “I know this because it happens again and again, and we have done too little to stop it from happening again?“ I will show you the continually recurring ABC cards in workshops year-in, year-out which confirm this.

The State of The Union

Knowing we would fail I decided to make the State of the Union article. An article which analyzed various Industry reports. (State of DevOps, State of Agile, Value Stream Management consortium, Gartner, McKinsey, Boston Consulting Group) so that I could use them to underpin what we could have predicted, and what indeed is what we are seeing as feedback from hundreds of organizations taking part in our simulations.

I summarized the reports into 5 common barriers. These are barriers we could have predicted in advance. As I say, not because we are smart but because in 40 years, we see it happening in cycles.

Every 10 years with the emergence of the next big ‘Shiny New Thing’ I give exactly the same presentations around the World relating to ABC of ICT, showing the top scoring ABC worst practices which are identified in global workshops. Many of the same cards are chosen year-in, year-out, despite the massive investment in new shiny ‘frameworks’ and ‘practices. Only now, when I submit a presentation proposal I get the response ‘We’ve done ABC, haven’t you got anything new?…..’ which is why I wrote the article ‘The Shiny New Thing that Really Helps’ (Which is a repackaging of ABC).

Continue to part 2

Autor:: Jaroslav Rokyta