Making Change Stick, Part I

Charles Araujo

How to Drive Organizational Change and Make Your Service Management Program More Than a “Flash in the Pan”

The Problem with Change

In 1960, the government of India knew they had a problem. 

Each year, nearly a quarter of their children were dying from diarrhea and they needed a solution. They found that the real issue was that children were dying of dehydration, so they developed a simple solution called rehydration salts. They enabled children to be rehydrated simply and quickly. Problem solved.

Today, the child mortality rate is down to 6.5%. Undeniably, this is a significant improvement. But in real numbers that means that 400,000 children still die each year from an almost completely preventable disease. Why?

Is it that the technology isn’t sufficient? Rehydration salts are safe, consistently effective and simple to produce in large quantities. Is it the process of getting the solution to those who need it? Today, rehydration salts are widely distributed, easily accessible and either free or almost free to whomever needs them – even in the furthest corners of India.

So, why is it that children are still dying in India today because of something that is a mere nuisance to most of us? The answer provides hope that this problem will finally be solved once and for all for India’s children. But it also provides a tremendous lesson to IT organizations as they endeavor to adopt service management principles within their organizations.

Technology and Process Are Not Enough

The government and aid groups from around the world worked diligently to help India solve this problem. They invested heavily to develop the technology – the rehydration salts. They worked together to develop a distribution process to get the solution wherever it was needed - quickly and efficiently. But technology and process were not enough. 

They conducted studies and found that after years of work trying to solve this problem, there remained a behavioral gap. Between 30 and 50% of mothers felt that if their child had diarrhea they should reduce the amount of liquids they gave them – which is the exact opposite of what they should be doing. These researchers had found that despite having the technology and the process needed to solve the problem, they needed to change the attitudes, behaviors, habits and beliefs of these mothers in order to create lasting change and finally solve the problem. They called this, The Last Mile.

The Last Mile

The Last Mile is a way of saying that to effect lasting change, you need to finish the journey. It means going beyond just the technology or process needed to solve the problem, but to deliberately work to change behaviors to make the change stick. This is a problem that is at the heart of most of the challenges that an ITSM adoption faces. IT organizations are quick to purchase a new tool or engage in an effort to develop new operational processes, but they seldom complete the last mile with a focused effort to change both organizational and individual behaviors. As a result, they often fail to realize the full benefits that they sought when they began their ITSM journey.

In India’s case, the answer was the idea of Community Mobilization. Simply stated, it calls for teams to identify community leaders and influencers and target them for behavioral change. Combined with a wide range of training, modeling and other educational techniques, the teams focus on changing behaviors from the inside out to reset the cultural biases, habits and attitudes that stopped mothers from fundamentally changing the way they reacted when their child became ill. IT organizations can follow a similar approach to drive IT Service Management Improvements into their organizations.

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