On the day that Steve Jobs stood down as Chief Executive of Apple, my attention has been drawn to a commencement speech he gave at Stanford University in 2005. This speech is often quoted and plagiarised, and considered one of the best commencement speeches of all time. It includes the advice to "do what you love" - which is a useful message to many of us in our working careers as well as our personal lives. I certainly wouldn't be a practicing consultant, and I wouldn't be giving my time in various voluntary roles in the industry, if I didn't love what I do. Yes, frustration happens sometimes, and there will be a time I give it up when I don't love it enough to continue - or I can't physically do it any more.
However, I don't want to concentrate on that part of the speech in this blog. I want to bring your attention to another small section towards the end of the speech, because I think it can help guide us to a healthier and more productive attitude to ITIL, and all other guidance, best/good practices, frameworks and standards. I think there is also a useful message regarding advice from consultants and others.
Jobs advises "Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking."
I really believe that one of the issues that we face with ITIL is not ITIL itself, but how others overuse and inappropriately elevate it to an almost religious level. In the past I've met far too many consultants, trainers, practitioners and managers who seem to preach the gospel according to ITIL - they are far too obsessed and dogmatic, proposing that because it says so in the book, it must be correct. The kick-back to that comes from those who distrust ITIL as a result of all the ITIL Zealots out there who try to evangelise or indoctrinate the love of ITIL.
ITIL certainly contains other people's thinking, but this isn't the problem as we have lots to learn from the experiences and thoughts of others. The problem is when we stop taking this as input which might be useful, and treat it as something we have to do because it says so.
I often hear people say "money is the root of all evil", but this is actually a misquote. The original quote is from the new testament book of Timothy, and depending on which version of the bible you prefer, the quote is actually "the love of money is the root of all evil".
Personally I'm not obsessed with ITIL - I don't love it, but I do think that it contains some useful data which I can use for good purposes. I don't believe that it is appropriate to trust all of the content as truth or fact, as it needs a rational approach to decide which parts each individual or organisation would find helpful, and how they need to be adapted to suit a particular situation or need.
Jobs goes on to say "Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice."
I and many other opinionated and passionate people will continue writing blogs and offering advice, sharing our opinions and thoughts - some of us do it as a job. Some of the advice and opinions you received will be helpful, some should be ignored - all should be carefully considered before being accepted. Only you can make up your mind which opinion is helpful, and no matter how loud the opinions of others, you must give yourself the time and space to listen to your own inner voice and decide what action to take.
Steve Jobs finishes off this section of his speech by saying "And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary."
Follow your intuition and make up your own mind. Sometimes you'll make some mistakes or wish you did something differently. Only some parts of other people's thinking and their opinions will help reduce the number of mistakes, and help you decide what action to take - but you have to decide which are useful and which are not.