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How Did My Grandmother Teach Me ITIL? ITIL: 7 Guiding Principles De-mystified

Aug. 23, 2022

How Did My Grandmother Teach Me ITIL? ITIL: 7 Guiding Principles De-mystified

Special Bytes By Ivor Macfarlane, Seasoned ITSM Specialist.

How Did My Grandmother Teach Me ITIL? 

7 Guiding Principles De-mystified and More. (DevOps, Agile, Microservices and Technical Debt...)


Featured Special Bytes with Ivor Macfarlane

"My grandmother taught me precisely the concepts behind the ITIL guiding principles that we teach today. It was something I thought about while teaching ITIL. Why was I so comfortable talking about it? It is because my grandmother put these ideas in my head 60 years ago." - Ivor Macfarlane, our honourable guest on the AITSM show, discusses how his grandmother taught him ITIL.

With a wealth of experience spanning over four to five decades, Ivor is a seasoned ITSM specialist.

In just eight minutes, he demystified seven guiding principles of ITIL and spoke about technical debt, microservices, containers and agile.

We'd learn a lot from him with plenty of analogies, anecdotes, nostalgic moments, interesting quotes from his rich experience, simplicity, and the wisdom of his grandmother.

Don’t miss the end, where he shares a great piece of advice with unique pearls of wisdom for IT professionals.

This talk is a treasure-trove for the quotes like these throughout. We would continue to share and cherish them later too:)

"Don't bite off more than you can chew. If we are putting sugar in our tea or making squash, you can always put more in later, but you can't take it out."

"Two heads are better than one, even if one of them's a sheep's head. And that means we need to collaborate with people who are not like us. Collaboration is not about finding people who are exactly like us and working together, but finding people who are different from us with different skills that we can work alongside. And then we get one plus one, meaning much more than two or the other way around if you just collaborate with people like yourself, one plus one equals one."

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Transcript

Dan: Welcome back to the AITSM Show with your host Dan. Today we've Ivor MacFarlane with us, and he is sharing timeless wisdom from his grandmother about ITIL and many more best practices. He's been around a long time, working in service management since 1976 and in the IT version since the 1980s. All that time, his passion has been about applying common sense to the work environment. That's driven by seeing how useful everyday common sense and experience are to our work situations as well as our personal ones. And also, a bit by how much IT people want the answer to be some shiny new tool instead of thinking simply and sensibly.

He worked 23 years for the UK government - spending time in forestry, prisons, stores, IT, and more - and 30+ years working on and with ITIL. A few periods of being an independent and 7 years with IBM. He's now supposed to be retired and lazy, living in Portugal, but he can't resist it when someone offers something interesting to do, so he still keeps a little bit busy. Over to Ivor.

Ivor Macfarlane: Hi, welcome. Delighted that Anand has given me this opportunity to talk about one of my favorite topics which reflected in a blog that I wrote a while ago called how I learn ITIL from my grandmother. Now, of course, I didn't learn all the details of modern ITIL from my grandmother who was born in the 1890s in London.

But what I did learn from her was exactly the ideas and the concepts that stand behind the ITIL guiding principles that we teach today. I was thinking about this when I was teaching ITIL and why they're so comfortable to talk about, and that's why, because my grandmother put these ideas in my head 60 years ago.

And I hope I can tell you about that and tell you about why they relate to those things in a way that makes you realize that that's got an important message for us. And that message really is that we have more experience and skills and knowledge and abilities to help us with our work, then we might think we have, because many of the skills and experiences that we've picked up in surviving this long in the world and, and learning things owning houses or repairing cars, or bringing up children exactly the skills and experience.

So we actually need to do our jobs at work as well. And when we realize that that experience that's relevant is much wider than just how long we've spent in IT. And how many thousand lines of code we've written or only hundreds of people we've supported on a service desk. Then we realize that we can use that skills and experience that we have, that our colleagues have, that our staff have, and that our bosses may have that they don't realize that it's there, that they can use.

But first of all, let me illustrate what I mean, in terms of those guiding principles and what my grandmother taught. Those of you who've done ITIL foundation ITIL 4, will know those seven guiding principles will have hammered them into your brain in order to make sure they stuck for the exam.

If you're a little bit older and you've been around a little bit longer, you may have done ITIL practitioner when there were nine guiding principles, but they've been edited down by time and enthusiasm. And we'll stick with the, the seven, the ITIL 4 gives. And I'll show you what I mean about what my grandmother told me.

#1

The first guiding principle is focus on value and what my grandmother would say to me a lot is what exactly are you trying to achieve here? Because if you don't know what you're trying to do, you won't do it. Actually, the first ever words written in the first ever IT book way back in the 1980 said those people who aim at nothing, usually hit it. And that's what my grandmother was trying to get across to me. Know what good looks like, understand what you're trying to achieve before you start, because otherwise you won't.

#2

The second guiding principle, one of the most important ones, certainly to her. Start where you are, or as she put. Don't throw the baby out with the bath water. That's a critical principle for us trying to do our work these days. It's important because it requires us to see the difference between baby and bath water. And to realize that it's not about throwing out the things you got wrong before, but that bath water that we used, there was nothing wrong with it. It was exactly the right thing to do, and it's done its job, but it's now over. It's now become dirty and we need to replace it. And a lot of the things we need to do when we are looking at where we work now and how we go forward are finding areas that we need to change. Not because anybody got them wrong, but because time and other factors has affected us. So don't throw the baby out with the bath water is also of course, about recognizing the baby and understanding what is worth keeping.

#3

Third one, progress iteratively with feedback. Don't bite off more than you can chew and a major message you would give to us. If we are putting sugar in our tea or making squash, you can always put more in later, but you can't take it out. Make sure you are going in the right direction before you travel. And test and check on every step.

#4

Collaborate and promote visibility or remember her phrase here. Two heads are better than one, even if one of them's a sheep's head. And what that means is we need to collaborate with people who are not like us. Collaboration is not about people finding people who are exactly like us and working together, is finding people who are different from us with different skills that we can work alongside. And then we get one plus one meaning much more than two or the other way around if you just collaborate with people like yourself, one plus one equals one. So, collaborate is work with people, promote visibility. You asked her for advice. She would always say, just give us a butchers. Let me see it. I can't help you if I can't see it.

#5

Think and work holistically. No man is an island she might say, but she would also keep asking, well, where's that coming from? Where's it gonna fit in? Because if you don't get that right, you are wasting your time.

#6

Keep it simple and practical. I love this one. She would tell me that I was counting the number of legs in a field and dividing by four to see you mean, see how many horses you'd got. If you want to count horses, count the heads in it. In the IT, 50 or 40 or 50 years I've been working here. We are really good at doing things in a complicated way when the simple way is staring us in the face.

#7

And the last one optimize and automate. Obviously, she wasn't into technology and IT, but she would tell me, you've gotta get yourself into the habit of. And that's an important message that there's more to automation and optimization than using computers and technology. We need to get the people into a routine that makes things work.

Of course, she didn't teach me ITIL guiding principle. There was a lot of the things she taught me. I can see another best practices as well.

#Technical Debt

If you are into DevOps, you'll know about technical debt. Technical debt, as far as my grandmother was concerned was don't sweep it under the carpet. It's not gonna help. It's still gonna be there tomorrow.

#Microservices & Containers

Also when I'm doing DevOps courses, now I teach about microservices and containers and, and she would tell me, well, you've done this before. And of course, if we'd done something before and we've got it right, then we can work her with it. Or we could work on that area that element of it. She was really good at getting me to work on little part of something bigger. So all that is there.

#Agile

And of course, approaches like agile have been around much longer than my grandmother, hundreds and hundreds of years. You're talking temples or mosques or cathedrals across the world. They were all built using agile approaches. They didn't design it, build the whole thing. And then 200 years later open it to the public. They built a minimum viable prayer space. First somewhere you could prey out of the rain or out of the heat. And then they expanded it or they built something a bit more substantial next to it. That concept of agile is there in human history, obvious for the rest of us.

I'm seven and a half minutes into this talk, and I'm not gonna go on forever on this talk, but the ideas that governance and empowerment of a team. Deliver something that I call constraints based. I could make that a seven, eight-minute talk all in its own. Right. Couple it up with how you all understand risk management already, but the big message I want to give across is use the skills that you have and that you've learned in your life when you're looking for people to help you in your work.

Don't just think about the IT skills or dumb things in an IT environment. Look in the broader sense of things, because that knowledge and skill that we bring to our work is incredibly value and incredibly important. And you should value your own skills as well as those of other people. Trust people, trust yourself, trust your knowledge, trust your skills. That's the big message that I'd like to get to through. So, if you are still out there and listening to you, thank you for lasting this long.

Dan: Ivor, thank you so much for sharing such remarkable pearls of wisdom with so many unique metaphors and relatable quotes in such a short talk. Please keep coming back to our show as we will invite you more often.

Thanks a lot for listening. What topics and questions would you like to see here? Don't forget to give us feedback. Please consider sharing if you love it.

Thanks again. Bye.

Ivor Macfarlane Profile Photo

Ivor Macfarlane

Seasoned ITSM Specialist

I’ve been around a long time, working in service management of one kind or another since 1976, and in the IT version since the 1980s. All that time my passion has been about applying common sense to the work environment. That’s driven by seeing how useful everyday common sense and experience is to our work situation as well as our personal one. And also a bit by how much IT people want the answer to be some shiny new tool instead of thinking simply and sensibly.

I worked 23 years for UK government - spending time in forestry, prisons, stores, IT and more - and 30+ years working on and with ITIL. A few periods of being an independent and 7 years with IBM. I’m now supposed to be retired and lazy, living in Portugal; but I can’t resist it when someone offers me something interesting to do so I keep a little bit busy still.