Way back in 2016, I wrote an article called 7 Books Every ITSM Practitioner Should Read and, given that it’s been extremely well-read, I was asked to update it. So, here’s a refreshed article that now offers up 12 books that every IT service management (ITSM) practitioner should read (OK, here are more but I didn’t want to scare you). If you’ve already read my earlier article, I’ve flagged each new addition along the way to make your life easier.
But before we get to my recommended reading list, please take a moment to think about the ongoing need to invest in yourself.
Investing in yourself
When you decided to be an ITSM practitioner, you also decided to be a leader in your organization. You might not have directly made this decision, but if you’ve spent time working to increase the adoption of ITSM, then you’ve fulfilled a variety of roles. For example, – marketing, sales, politician, process savant, tactical engineer, and many others.
Plus, you’ve likely been a key cog in leading transformational change for your team. While you might not have a big, fancy title that includes “manager” or “director,” it hasn’t stopped (and shouldn’t stop) you from leading. And, because you’re leading, there’s a need to develop your skills in this important area.In this article @EarlBegley shares a list of 12 books and publications to read AND utilize to improve your #leadership skills as an #ITSM practitioner. Click To Tweet
In Steven Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” the seventh habit is sharpening the saw. It’s about preserving and enhancing your greatest asset– you. And, in my opinion, one of the most overlooked ways for gaining knowledge and improving oneself is reading.
I don’t have the bandwidth in this article to cover everything you might need to enhance your leadership skills. So, instead, I’ve focused on a relatively short list of 12 books or publications to read AND utilize to improve your leadership skills as an ITSM practitioner.
1. (NEW) The current versions of industry best practices and standards – ITIL, ISO/IEC 2000, COBIT, SIAM guidance, Six Sigma, MOP, Knowledge-Center Service, Kaizen, etc.
Why? These publications are the foundation knowledge of what you and your organization should be doing. Please note, most of these are not definitive guides but frameworks to allow you and your organization to plan, design, test, deploy, and operate a service management system. They’re the base information you need so that you can speak to the whys, hows, and whens of a service management program. You don’t need to read them all but it’s important to know what’s available before choosing those that you wish to use in your organization.
2. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen R. Covey
Why? This book focuses on seven important habits that will make you a more efficient and effective member of the human race (so, beyond your role in the workplace):
- Being proactive
- Beginning with the end in mind
- Putting first things first
- Thinking win-win
- Seeking to understand then to be understood
- Sharpening the saw
In particular, reading this book will help you understand the need to evaluate the different perspectives your teammates and other stakeholders have about service management adoption. The habits are split across imperatives of independence, interdependence, and continuous improvement – and these tie in with the ITSM concepts you’ll be promoting as an ITSM practitioner.Recommended reading for #ITSM practitioners from @EarlBegley: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by @StephenRCovey. Click To Tweet
3. The Goal and Critical Chain – Eliyahu M. Goldratt
Why? For me, the main reason is in The Goal’s subtitle “A process of ongoing improvement.”
Yes, there are many other books promoting continual improvement, but The Goal also teaches you about the “Theory of Constraints” (ToC). And understanding the ToC can be invaluable as you create ITSM processes as an ITSM practitioner – helping to identify the constraints in your delivery models, better positioning ITSM to achieve its desired goals. For this article, I’ve also added the Critical Chain – a business novel that looks at project management through a ToC lens.Recommended reading for #ITSM practitioners from @EarlBegley: The Goal and Critical Chain, by @GoldrattSaid. Click To Tweet
4. (NEW) The Visible Ops Handbook, The Phoenix Project, The DevOps Handbook, The Unicorn Project – Gene Kim, Kevin Behr, and George Spafford
Why? In The Phoenix Project, recommended in my last article, the authors taught the reader DevOps concepts in a model based on The Goal and the ToC, as applied to fictional but “real life” IT projects. For this article, I’ve added three more great reads by the authors for ITSM practitioners.Recommended reading for #ITSM practitioners from @EarlBegley: The Visible Ops Handbook, The Phoenix Project, The DevOps Handbook, The Unicorn Project, by @RealGeneKim, @kevinbehr, and @gspaff. Click To Tweet
5. (NEW) Plus! The Standard + Case Approach – Rob England
Why? This book breaks down how to move out of the bureaucratic and often inflexible processes your organization may have. It presents response, regardless of it being the IT service desk, Tier 2, public safety, social welfare, or general health, in a way that allows the teams using the process to have standard approaches for the “normal” issues, and case management approaches for the never/seldom seen issues. You can learn how to make the process-flow more flexible in responding to end-user needs, achieve higher customer satisfaction levels, improve team morale, and display greater predictability in measurements.Recommended reading for #ITSM practitioners from @EarlBegley: Plus! The Standard + Case Approach, by @rob_england. Click To Tweet
6. (NEW) The agile Manager: New Ways of Managing – Dr. Cherry Vu and Rob England
Why? We all know the only constant in our lives is change. The past year has taught us as ITSM practitioners that we have to be prepared to pivot how we work, where we work, and how we manage at a moment’s notice. This book will help you understand how the focus on key management paradigms will help to identify the changes needed to enhance empowerment, collaboration, agility, and flow for complex systems.Recommended reading for #ITSM practitioners from @EarlBegley: The agile Manager: New Ways of Managing, by @drcherryvu and @rob_england. Click To Tweet
7. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team – Patrick Lencioni
Why? This publication helps you to understand the five common “dysfunctions” and helps you to address issues related to them.:
- Absence of trust
- Fear of conflict
- Lack of commitment
- Avoidance of accountability
- Inattention to results.
You’ll quickly see how any of these could adversely affect your service management program – causing serious disruption or even failure Being able to identify and then remedy these five dysfunctions will definitely help with the adoption of your service management practice.Recommended reading for #ITSM practitioners from @EarlBegley: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, by @patricklencioni. Click To Tweet
8. Balanced Diversity: A Portfolio Approach to Organizational Change – Karen Ferris
Why? Change is hard, but you’re now in a position to help embed change. Understanding organizational culture is more of an art than a science, and you’ll need to look at change from multiple perspectives to ensure that adoption is as high as possible.
To help, this book provides a framework that positions you to use organizational change management (OCM) tool and techniques to help ensure that change sticks. It also provides ITSM applications and case studies of how to use the OCM practices in anger for ITSM practitioners.Recommended reading for #ITSM practitioners from @EarlBegley: Balanced Diversity: A Portfolio Approach to Organizational Change, by @Karen_Ferris. Click To Tweet
9. (NEW) Switch – How to Change Things When Change is Hard – Chip Heath and Dan Heath
Why? Service management is about change and, as I just said, change is hard. Having insight into the likely obstacles and conflicts can help us identify where combat occurs with our change philosophy. The book break downs how difficult change is in our companies, our careers, and our lives, plus why change is so hard and how we can overcome resistance to make change happen.Recommended reading for #ITSM practitioners from @EarlBegley: Switch – How to Change Things When Change is Hard, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. Click To Tweet
10. Crucial Accountability – Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Swizler, and David Maxfield
Why? One of the key tenets of service management is everyone needing to be accountable for executing common processes to ensure service delivery. And what happens when you discover individuals who are either unwilling or unable to be so? It’s time for a crucial, and potentially difficult, conversation. This book provides a strategy for how to best deal with accountability issues without harming relationships. It’s also a great reference for any of your team members who engage, or will be engaging, in business relationship management.Recommended reading for #ITSM practitioners from @EarlBegley: Crucial Accountability, by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Swizler, and David Maxfield. Click To Tweet
11. (NEW) The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right – Atul Gawande
Why? We live in a world with increasing complexity and advancing technologies. ITIL 4 lists 34 practices and, as we all know, the interfaces between the practices/processes can be extensive. How do we expect the average ITSM employee to keep up with all the requirements and procedures they must routinely execute? To help, this book delves into the use of checklists (procedures) that assist even expert professionals ensure they’ve not missed critical steps. While focused on checklists for healthcare situations, the lessons shared can help setup your service management practice to get things right, prevent costly errors, and promote continual improvement.Recommended reading for #ITSM practitioners from @EarlBegley: The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right, by @Atul_Gawande. Click To Tweet
12. (NEW) Measure What Matters – John Doerr
Why? Service management is, in many ways, proving that you a) say what you do; b) do what you say; and c) leaving proof that you did a) and b). We often accomplish this by measurements, but are we measuring the things that truly matter?
Don’t get me wrong. It’s important to know things like incident volumes and mean time to recovery (MTTR) but do these measures tell the story we want told? This book helps you understand how to identify the objectives and key results the business needs/wants to know, how well-defined objectives and key results help leaders make hard choices, and how objectives and key results promote data-driven decisions and lead the organization toward judgement-free accountability. The book also provides ITSM practitioners with examples of how to position objectives and key results to work effectively and how they position the organization for continual improvement.Recommended reading for #ITSM practitioners from @EarlBegley: Measure What Matters, by John Doerr. Click To Tweet
What next for ITSM practitioners?
Hopefully, there’ll be more reading and learning! But first focus on what you’ve just learned because books are most valuable when the ITSM practitioner learning is used ASAP.
Earl Begley is a Project Director for Compliance and Standards at San Francisco International Airport, focused on earning ISO/IEC 20000-1:2011(E)® certification by 2019. He has previously worked with IT teams in manufacturing, health care, and higher education over a 25+ year span.
In his free time, he curates social media service management content, snaps photos of things he finds interesting, and explores the wilds of the San Francisco Bay area.