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MarsLander FollowUp
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It’s not the end of ITIL®. It’s the end-to-end of ITIL!

By Paul Wilkinson, Gaming Works

MarsLander Workshop Take Aways





I am delighted that a common, recognized theme at the itSMF FUSION19 conference was the need for ‘End-to-End collaboration’. Not just within IT organizations and their partner eco-systems, but between the owners of the various best practice frameworks and approaches. End-to-end collaboration which is a ‘must’ if we are to achieve what we all keep ‘talking’ about – Business value.


‘Collaboration’ and ‘value’ were two of the themes that John Custy and I explored in 3 pre-conference business simulation workshops, using the MarsLander (ITSM) and the Phoenix project (DevOps) simulations.

In this article I want to share some of the experiences, but more importantly the actions that delegates in the MarsLander workshops took away, actions that itSMF members may also find useful.


Setting the Scene




Dateline: 7, October 2019. T-Minus 30 minutes.


Place: Mission control room, Space-Y organization, New Orleans


‘…I am tired, I just flew in from Ecuador. I have had 3 hours sleep in the last 36 hours. I want this mission to succeed. Space-X and NASA, our biggest competitors, are increasing the velocity of their innovations to win in the space business. We in Space-Y cannot fall behind, we need to improve our innovation time-to-deploy, and reduce failures in our systems. I am aware there were Problems from the last missions that are a potential threat’ said the mission director glaring at the systems engineers.


The Mission Director then introduced himself to the MarsLander Mission Control team. The Sales director, was given a warm handshake in response to her announcement that she had just closed a large revenue generating deal with research organizations, a deal to capture data from the comet Hardy-IV. The software however hasn’t yet been built or engineered into the spacecraft systems.


Well done’ said the mission director ‘I am sure the team won’t let you down. They will collaborate to build, deploy and support this new product offering’.  The mission director looked proudly around the team - The product owner working with Customer support and applications development would ensure the new requests, features and customer feedback would be deployed into production in a smooth and timely fashion. Flight operations working with the service desk, systems engineering and vendor support would ensure high availability and recovery of any events, issues and problems impacting mission critical components. The change and release team would ensure deployment of new and updated products to the MarsLander craft. The Mission director’s eyes stopped at the two man Service management team. ‘….and what exactly do you add to this mission’?


We ensure that you get value’? said the Service Manager, smiling.


Really! I thought he did that’ said the Mission director pointing to the Product owner.


Yes’ said the Product owner. ‘I do that’.


…Er…we ensure co-ordination of end-to-end delivery of value’ said the second Service Manager.


Really’? said the mission director slightly more irritated, turning to the Applications development team he asked, ‘Does he coordinate you’?




‘….Er we ensure the SLA’s are achieved’ said the first Service Manager, holding up the SLA.


Really’ said the mission director ‘And how do those SLA’s relate to my business goals’?


‘….Er.. they ensure that we protect the goals and the value’.


Really, said the Mission director’…..’Do you know what those goals are’?




‘…and what is this ‘value’ you keep talking about? What does that ‘value’ look like’?




If you don’t know what value is then how can you measure that you’re getting what you didn’t know you were hoping to get in the first place’!? exclaimed the Mission director.



The scene has clearly been set

The team was challenged to now justify, and demonstrate the ‘value’ of ITSM, - more particularly, the value of this ‘ITIL®4 stuff’! Why? Many organizations are questioning the relevance of ‘ITIL’ in this new era of fast paced digital disruption. ITIL®4 must now claim its relevance. This was confirmed by the majority of delegates at recent itSMF UK MarsLander workshops.


I showed the team the top scoring ABC (Attitude, Behavior, Culture) card from global workshops. This has been the top scoring card for 15 years in a row! ‘IT has too little understanding of business impact and priority’! What just happened in the scene above is a symptom of this behavior.


What happened next?

MarsLander was launched. Hurtling through the atmosphere, the team worked on a customer feedback issue, the new business request, technical issues from Flight operations and the flashing events from the monitoring system….. The single word feedback at the end of the round was ‘chaos’ characterized by silo’d working, no understanding of ‘value’, lack of visibility as to which work was done, or why! Poor communication and collaboration.  Lack of understanding and managing the risks and the problems, little engagement with the business, lack of governance from the business.


‘…I could have stayed at work if I wanted to experience this’ said one delegate.

Where was the Service Management value in this’? asked the frustrated Mission Director.


Crash course

The team then had a crash course – ‘to prevent a real MarsLander crash’ – in the ITIL®4 Service value system and the guiding principles. The Service managers were tasked in facilitating the follow up improvement exercise. ‘show me how you will now help the team translate these guiding principles into ‘desirable behaviors’ and how you will now apply continual improvement to solve these issues’! challenged the Mission Director.

These were clearly new skills for the service management team.


  • Engaging with all stakeholders
  • Mapping out value streams
  • Identifying waste and justifying improvement opportunities that would deliver the most value.
  • Working with the product owner to balance priorities against Value, Outcomes, Costs and Risks.
  • Working towards ‘shared’ goals and dealing with conflicts in in local team goals.  

The second round went much smoother. The team was focused on the goals and understood the ‘value’ from a business perspective as well as ‘value’ to each area within the value chain. The Product owner and service managers were collaborating, the end-to-end teams were collaborating and communicating more effectively. Problem management analyzing trends and was assessing downstream business risks. The team used visual management to aid rapid decision making.   It had taken them 30 minutes between game rounds, applying a pragmatic approach to ‘progress iteratively with feedback’, ‘Collaborate and promote visibility’ and ‘Focus on value’. Turning these words and slogans into demonstrable behaviors!

Wow, this was really powerful’! exclaimed one delegate.


‘….Imagine if you did this in your daily work’.

At the end of the workshop we explored with the team: ‘What did you discover today, that you need to take away and start applying in your organization? We recorded these on a flip-chart.


Continual Improvement Actions (CIA)


(I call the flip chart CIA….only unlike the CIA where everything is kept secret, these CI Actions are hung up on the wall.  An example of ‘collaborate and promote visibility’ allowing all team members to progress iteratively and give feedback – especially when they see that nothing is being done with the agreed actions).

These were their actions:


  • Translate the Guiding principles into ‘desirable behaviors’ and embed these in the culture. Give feedback, coach new behaviors. Practice-feedback-practice-feedback.
  • Define ‘Collaboration’ behaviors. Collaborate to build a visual management capability with end-to-end stakeholders. Visual management helped with fast, effective decision making and helped create a shared view of what was important in relation to the business goals.
  • Introduce calling ‘stop’ and time-outs to explore improvement opportunities. ‘Improving you work is your work’. This is underpinned by ‘collaborate & promote visibility’, ‘focus on value’ and ‘progress iteratively with feedback’.
  • Visualize dependencies – seek to ‘optimize and automate’ to improve flow between value stream areas and reduce waste.
  • Create the need for governance. Visualize the full set of demand and opportunities in terms of the Value formula (Value = (Value Creation Work) – (Value leakage work) + (Value improvement work).
  • Agree the need to balance these types of value work. For most organizations we will never be able to do more ‘Value creation’ work if we don’t prioritize the ‘Value improvement’ work. This is a business risk.
  • Gather understanding of the Value chain related departments. Make visible some pilot value stream(s). Identify Continual improvement opportunities with the stream stakeholders, then embed ‘progress iteratively with feedback’ as part of the daily work to improve (at a speed the team/organization is capable of).
  • Act holistically. Consider the system not the silos or processes (e.g., the Service Value system (SVS)) and how these layers interrelate and interact.
  • Explore value outside of own group (SILO) how do we provide value upstream and downstream as part of a value chain.
  • Align ‘Product owner’ & ‘Service manager’ – We’re both trying to maximize value from the flow of work through value streams, and both trying to continually learn and improve. Look for end-to-end improvements.
  •  Communicate the importance of shared goals. Understand and respect individual (SILO) goals, balance these against greater shared goals. Recognize and manage conflicts and expectations.
  • Foster accountability, ownership of goals and devolved decision making.
  •  Challenge assumptions, confirm understanding.

It was clear that ITIL®4 helped delegates capture concrete actions to take away to help explore and drive business value. The exercise gave insights into how to improve end-to-end collaboration – driving sustainable behavior change based around the Guiding principles. The exercise also gave the delegates a concrete action list as input to their own Continual Improvement Action (CIA) list. The question now is, will people take ownership to drive these changes within their own organizations? Or will the CIA list remain a secret to their organizations. One of the top scoring ABC cards in global workshops is ‘Not my responsibility’, but as I quoted at the end of my presentation  ‘Transformation for Dummies’ – “YOU must be the change you wish to see in the world” Ghandi.