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Frederick Taylor Would Have Loved ITIL

Frederick TaylorFrederick Winslow Taylor introduced the concept of scientific management to the world over a hundred years ago. Its tendrils have since taken root across the business world in various forms, especially in ITIL. In a blog post, Dave Herpen posits tongue in cheek that Taylor would have loved ITIL, as they both subscribe to a compartmentalized and rigid work system that leaves the workers themselves out of the loop.

The way Herpen frames it, Taylor believed that in order to compensate for the inherent laziness of people, it would be most efficient to divide organizational workload into a series of standardized, repetitive tasks from end to end. In this way, workers fulfill their carefully defined roles without ever grasping or having a responsibility to the greater functions of the organization, which remains the sole realm of management. In effect, the amount of human touch required to keep the machine going drops to a minimum.

Herpen sees all of these same principles applying to ITIL. Repeatable work is divided and standardized according to clear rules so that as much control of IT services as possible is obtained. He believes ITIL fails to allow room for innovation from the supplier to the organization and that the lack of culture inherent in the structure is a weakness. Keeping track of the ever growing complexity of ITIL is also a concern in itself. Herpen sees a better path for workers:

If you are in ITSM, I would strongly recommend you to consider applying some very useful practices and basic concepts from both Lean and Agile into your everyday practice, instead of blindfolded attempts to fit the ITIL practices into your IT organization. For instance, by using Lean methodology in eliminating major activities and processes not adding value to the customer (waste), but also to enable Kaizen and true continuous improvement on “workers” level (please do not leave this up to the management). In addition, Agile (eg. Scrum) methodologies stimulate personal ownership, trust and intrinsic motivation. Combined with visualizing the daily priorities Kanban-style, I feel you can put a lot of positive energy in your ITSM organization.

Taylor would probably scoff at some of these suggestions, particularly any idea that tried to espouse the virtue of “positive energy,” but a lot has changed in a hundred years. Perhaps ITIL should change with it.

About John Friscia

John Friscia is the Editor of Computer Aid's Accelerating IT Success. He began working for Computer Aid, Inc. in 2013 and continues to provide graphic design support for AITS. He graduated summa cum laude from Shippensburg University with a B.A. in English.

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