Originally Published December 4, 2012
As we move into the waning of the year in the northern hemisphere and the waxing of the year in the southern hemisphere, it becomes time to reflect on the meaning and understanding of the idea of cycles. The yearly cycle of seasons was long ago recognized by early mankind as playing a significant role in culture and society. Planting, growth, maturity and harvesting each set the day to day activities of peoples around the globe throughout a given year. This is no less true when it comes to the lifecycle of services and the lifecycle of Service Management. Both play a significant part in the culture and functioning of an organization.
A cycle is defined as “any complete round or series of occurrences that repeats or is repeated.” This definition holds true for service management and IT services. When it comes to providing value through IT services and governing, controlling and managing those services, we do not exist in a “once and done” or “set and forget” world. We live in what I call a“rinse and repeat” world based on ongoing cycles. The key principle of a cycle is that it is repeated (often over and over again into the future with no planned end). For IT organizations this calls for us to look at things in the long term (cyclical) in addition to the short term (deliverables and results).
As part of Service Strategy an IT organization should incorporate long term cyclical perspectives into the vision, mission, goals and objectives of providing value to the business and end customers. There are daily, weekly, monthly, yearly and even decade long cycles that should be incorporated into the planning for the future. The most straightforward approach to cyclical planning is the Deming Cycle (Plan-Do-Check-Act). Incorporating the PDCA cycle into planning, an organization can set the tone and approach for all cyclical activities throughout the lifecycle of a service. Yes we are talking about using cycles inside of other cycles! The idea is that the effort of providing value to customers and the business through a service lifecycle is never done. It simply revolves back to the beginning of the cycle.
As a result, the phrase “we want to be evolutionary, not revolutionary” is really a misconception. A revolution is a cycle (one complete rotation of the cyclical activities). Evolution is the long term effects of a series of repeated revolutions (cycles). So to be evolutionary, an organization must be revolutionary (or cyclical) first! This is one of the main concepts from Continual Service Improvement—gradual change over time (revolutions and cycles), lead to more significant results in the long run (evolution).
By seeing that ITSM and the best practices frameworks promote a cyclical view in both short term and long term thinking, an organization can replace ad hoc, on-the-fly work and results with repeatable, standardized and consistent results for the business and the customer.