Lean and IT: ITIL, Change Management and the A3 Report

IT service management (ITSM) is a foundation concept within IT shops. It refers to the policies, processes, and procedures to plan, deliver and control IT services.

To further support ITSM, one of the most common frameworks is ITIL, which stands for Information Technology Infrastructure Library. ITIL was developed in the UK in the 1980s in recognition that IT management was taking many directions and required standards. ITIL was built around a process credited to W. Edwards Deming and his plan-do-check-act (PDCA) cycle.

In fact, Lean principles also have origins with Deming.

ITIL has continued to serve IT shops well, including the popular process and committee known as Change Management (CM). It is used to manage changes to IT infrastructure and services.

For two decades, this author has attended many weekly Change Management meetings that comprise many subject matter experts from across the enterprise in an effort to make sure that planning IT changes are efficient and not without risk.

Unfortunately, the weekly Change meeting is often attended by too many people who have almost no knowledge of the IT change requests that are being discussed and reviewed. Often, change requests are incomplete or have too much detail beyond what is needed. IT staff often lack guidance on the role of the committee and how to present a change request for consideration and stakeholders who need to be engaged. Discussions run wild, and often-additional meetings are needed. Change Requests can sit idle for years.

Managing meetings is not easy.

Lean thinking has roots in the Toyota Production System (TPS). One of the core tenets of the TPS includes the Japanese expression nemawashi, which means an informal process of quietly laying the foundation for some proposed change or project, by talking to the people concerned.

While Toyota realized the value in consensus and discussion, they needed structure to present the findings to a group of decision makers. Hence the A3 report.

Toyota employees use the A3 report, which means putting all key information on a single page for easy understanding. The A3 report contains: the current situation, proposal, cost and time analysis, plan, implementation, controls and time line – all on one page.

The discipline of the A3 report helps to run effective meetings: clear objectives, the right people at the meeting, prepared participants, effective use of visual aids (A3 report), share information prior to the meeting, leaving the meeting for problem solving and finally – the meeting starts and ends on time.

Takeaway for IT service managers: review your Change Management meetings; consider the standardized “A3” type report and the Japanese notion of nemawashi.

For more about “Lean and IT,” register for our upcoming June 4th Workshop, led by Mike Boucher and Paul Youldon.

For Change Management ITIL process owners challenged by managing meetings, consider our popular “Foundation Course in Group Facilitation (8348) led by Brin Sharp.