Last week somebody commented to say that there is a blog entry in every experience that you have, so when I posted this photo on my Facebook page I was challenged to make it into an ITIL blog. More specifically: an article about Continual Service Improvement.
Is there something that ITIL CSI can learn from the centuries old discipline of Dressage?!?! HA! You betcha!
Dressage is a sport (some say art form) that evolved from the military “in the olden days” when soldiers needed to be able to rely on their mode of transportation at any given point in time. Their horses needed to be 100% aligned to their rider’s needs and requirements so that in times of danger the horse and rider stayed safe. (just like the IT department needs to be 100% aligned to the business to be agile enough to manoeuvre with the business moving forward).
Dressage began as battle movements and Xenophon’s men only rode stallions into battle because they were thought to be braver, showing more aptitude for pirouetting, leaping, turning, and moving sideways. The Piaffe could be used to trample an adversary; a Levadewas useful if you needed to make a slash with your sword; a Pirouette could turn you, to or from, the enemy; a Capriole could leap over an enemy; a Courbette could bring you high above the enemy, an advantageous place from which to reach down and slay them, and Flying Lead Changes were necessary to maneuver around in battle.
Unfortunately, during Medieval times, the art of Dressage was lost when the soldiers resorted to wearing heavy armor and also covered their horses with anywhere from 50 to 150 lbs of armour. Dressage returned to popularity during the Renaissance period, (originating in Italy and across Europe) when pistols and rifles became a common part of battle. The armour was reduced and with a rifle or gun a soldier could take aim from further away.” [http://www.classicalriding.com.au/historyofdressage.html]
What best Practices can ITIL CSI learn from Dressage?
1. Perfection takes time – improvement is about taking small steps on the right track
Dressage uses a maturity level scale on which you measure the level of training and development of a horse. Although you touch on all areas during a training session, you don’t ask a top level movement on a young horse as it won’t be ready for it both physically and mentally.
The dressage training scale follows the following steps: Rhythm and regularity (takt), Relaxation (losgelassenheit), Contact (anlehnung), Impulsion (schwung), Straightness (Geraderichtung) and finally Collection (Versammlung).
This training scale has developed over hundreds of years and has proven itself over and over again.
ITIL Professionals - When we educate and train our clients or employees in organisations, do we use a proven method of gradual improvement? Do we know the ground rules that are needed and required to achieve the next level in a positive and supporting manner? How do you know that the first step has been achieved? What do you measure and report on?
2. Learn from your mistakes – did the horse make the mistake? Or was it you?
In dressage you work with a living animal. Both the animal and the rider are guided by hormones and other chemical interactions in our bodies. We all suffer from “bad hair days” and we respond differently in different situations. Every ride is different and even when you think you did the exact same thing, the outcome may be totally different. Some days your horse simply doesn’t feel like working so you’ll have to make it more fun. Other days you feel stiff and your muscles ache so you need to do more stretching exercises. Be creative…
ITIL Professionals - Do you ever take note of the people around you? When things go wrong, could it be that you asked for things in a different way that you normally would? What is happening in the organisation around you? Take time to analyse those incidents that come in – is there a trend visible? Can you pinpoint where things go ‘off the rails’? And how can you change your approach to CSI processes to achieve a better result? Perhaps your team need to stretch their measurement muscles? Or perhaps it’s time to be more creative and do a brainstorming session on ways to improve the proactive problem management activities?
3. Don’t just rely on feeling – be effective AND efficient.
When you train in dressage you go through the same exercises over and over again until both rider and horse fully understand what is needed. The aides you give as a rider have to be effective -the horse understands and does what you want it to do- and efficient -you only use the amount of pressure to support the horse just enough to bring the message across. The aim is to become more and more subtle in your aides so the horse listens intently to your “whispers”.
While you go through your training program – continually improving how you deliver your aides as well as the outcome and results- you MUST measure on a regular basis. Some people have mirrors so they can check how things look. Other riders have a second person on the ground to give instant feedback on what they see. And the official tests and competitions are a wonderful way to check how your understanding of your performance is in line with what independent expert judges (auditors) think.
ITIL Professionals – How do you rely on your continual improvement? Are you happy with the way it makes you feel? Are you doing the same things over and over again, or are you changing your approach based on external input?
What do you measure on a regular basis, and do you use automated self-measurement methodologies or do you engage external experts to help you see what you can’t? Can you accept what other people say, or do you criticise everything because it doesn’t agree with the picture you’ve built up in your mind of the performance of your IT department, your team or your project…? And what do you measure against? (tip… read point 1 again: the training scale. If the top level is what you want to achieve you need independent and objective measurement points along the line). And perhaps you are not able to measure everything that you want to measure – well, then simply start with what CAN be measured. It’s really that simple – measuring something is better than measuring nothing.
For example: I dont’ have mirrors in my arena so I can’t measure every time I ride – but every couple of weeks I go to a clinic to have an expert professional give me feedback on my riding. And my husband makes photos and videos every now and then… you think other people are critical?? Wait until you see yourself on video!!
You’re smart enough — I am sure you can come up with ways to take these 3 best practices from the art of Dressage and turn this into the Art of ITIL CSI to make the IT world a more elegant and battle ready industry!
And don’t forget to have fun while you do it! Nobody wants to ride a cranky horse….. trust me. ;-)