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Filling the Process and Framework Skills Gap

For many organizations, the COVID-19 pandemic exposed one of two ends of a spectrum: poorly defined processes, or overly-rigorous processes. At either end of the spectrum, these organizations likely struggled to adapt as the pandemic impacted our lives. For those with poorly defined processes, things were probably pretty chaotic. For those with overly-rigorous processes, things were most certainly taking way too long. Even organizations with well-defined processes felt, and continue to feel, pressure to speed up the flow of work, minimize toil, and automate processes where possible. To do this, they must develop a culture of continuous improvement and learning.

Continuous improvement is an ongoing effort to improve all aspects of an organization; its people, processes, tools, products, services, and experiences… all of which are tightly integrated. Whether improvements are large or small, what matters most is that they are constant.

The highest performing organizations already understand this. They have empowered employees at every level of the organization to see and drive out waste and optimize performance. They encourage curiosity and inquiry and they provide the psychological safety needed to support their employees as they experiment, learn, and yes, sometimes fail.

These organizations recognize the need to standardize ways of working in an effort to improve efficiency and effectiveness, while at the same time encouraging agility and innovation. Here’s where processes come back into play. Organizations can build a foundation of operational excellence by making core processes as predictable and repeatable as possible. This then paves the way for automating those processes, which then frees up time for innovation, experimentation, and the next round of improvements.

Given this scenario, it should come as no surprise that process and framework skills top the list of essential capabilities for IT organizations according to the DevOps Institute’s 2023 Global Upskilling IT Report. This same research also indicates that respondents are experiencing skill gaps in this area.

 Source: DevOps Institute 2023 Upskilling IT Report

At the most basic level, process skills include understanding what a process is and when processes are appropriate. More advanced skills include understanding the relationship between processes and value streams and the role processes play in enabling the flow of work, knowing and using process flow and analysis techniques, figuring out how to make processes visible, and identifying and reducing constraints.

Processes are never ‘done’ and so optimizing processes is an ever-constant activity that can be accelerated by leveraging best practice frameworks. Best practice frameworks provide guidance about what works and what doesn’t work and help organizations avoid reinventing the wheel. They also provide a common language that organizations can use to help improve communication and collaboration and to get everyone going in the same direction.

The challenge with frameworks is that organizations are tempted to treat them as if they are mutually exclusive or worse, as silver bullets. In reality, no one framework is perfect and no one is complete. They work together, across the end-to-end value stream.

Source: DevOps Institute Upskilling IT Global Report 2022

Embracing and adapting the principles and practices of these frameworks collectively allows organizations to put in place an operating model that can deliver it all… speed, quality, and stability. One doesn’t have to be sacrificed for the others.

This isn’t something that can happen overnight. It’s a journey that begins with top management making a commitment to cultivate a culture of continuous improvement and learning, communicating that commitment to everyone in the organization, and modeling the desired behaviors. It involves sharing and encouraging new ways of working (such as the frameworks shown above) across organizational boundaries, and it takes diligence and determination on the part of each and every one of us.

The act of learning, particularly learning from failure, begins with individuals, is then amplified within teams, and then can be scaled and reinforced at an organizational level. Whether an organization's processes are poorly defined, overly rigorous, or somewhere in between, process and framework skills enable each and every one of us to contribute to their improvement on an ongoing basis. An easy way to get started is by embracing principles-based ways of working and aiming for ‘just enough’ process.

In our next blog, we’ll explore specific ways to improve your process and framework skills and the evolution of process improvement as a professional discipline.

To learn more, consider the following ITSM Academy courses:


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