Prepare Three Envelopes

Archie the consultant beamed with pride at the newly gained RealITSM Expert[1] certificate he had just finished hanging in his home office. Below that on his desk, freshly opened, was confirmation of his hiring by a large finance company to design and deploy a service management initiative.

His email system announced the arrival of a high priority message. It was from someone who claimed to be the incumbent consultant at the finance company, with an offer to meet privately for lunch. Archie was bemused, until now he had no idea a project had been active, let alone under the steerage of a consultant. He accepted.

After exchanging pleasantries, their work experiences, and mid-way through lunch, the incumbent went into what seemed like ‘Mission Impossible’ mode, and clandestinely presented Archie with three numbered and sealed envelopes. “Open these up one at a time if you get into any trouble” he said.

It was about a month into Archie’s tenure at the finance company and things had gone rather smoothly, perhaps too smoothly. He strode into his first progress review meeting with senior management, project plans and status reports in hand.

Before he could sit down and organize his notes and thoughts the discussion moved swiftly to the cost of the project and why the recently implemented ‘best practices’ were reported to be adding to the workload and increasing the level of bureaucracy, rather than streamlining operations.

Archie was off balance in his thinking and really catching a lot of heat. Everything he said sounded like an excuse. At his wit’s end, he remembered the envelopes. He went to his folder and took out the first envelope. The message read, “Blame your predecessor, and replace all use of the term best practice with process improvement.”

Calling upon the Damage Management principles he learned on his RealExpert class, Archie proceeded to tactfully execute elements of the 3-D[2] method, and lay the blame at the feet of the previous incumbent, including suggestions to the effect the focus should be on using more of a “process-based” improvement approach. Satisfied with his comments, the attendees responded positively, and the problem was soon behind him.

At the next month’s status meeting it was déjà vu for Archie, except the problem now seemed to be the disconnect between implementing the RealITSM process framework and need to address the number #2 goal of the IT organization – improved alignment with the business.

Stressed, Archie opened the second envelope. The message read, ” Blame your predecessor and replace every use of the phrase Real IT Service Management (RealITSM) with Real Business Service Management (RealBSM)”. Once again there was a parliamentary styled roar of approval, and a general consensus that Archie had everything in hand.

However, after several consecutive successful and surprisingly quiet review meetings, Archie once again found himself under pressure. Budgets had been cut; the economic perfect storm was in full force, and all project priorities were being reassessed. Worse, key stakeholders had recently discovered an article on an industry blog discussing the need for projects and especially service management initiatives to address one or more of the “management imperatives”.

Archie was shaken and not looking forward to an emergency project review meeting called for the afternoon. He went to his office, closed the door and opened the third envelope.

The message said, “Prepare three envelopes.”

A new spin on an old joke, but an all too familiar story for many in today’s economic perfect storm.

The number of envelopes available to professionals in Archie’s position may vary, but the danger signs are clear. Its not the best practice. It’s not the process, nor is it the industry concept or framework du jour. These all represent ‘inside-out’ thinking. No, its time to press reset on the initiative button, and return to its original promise and approach by placing the customer’s interests first, and applying outside-in thinking to service management.

[1] RealExpert is a qualification gained under the fictitious RITSI program as described in Rob England’s hilarious book ‘RealITSM’, read more at

[2] Damage Management principles – Divert attention, Direct blame, Defend IT, again see http:/ buy his book!