Executive support and rabbit stew
When IT advice is being handed out, by frameworks and books or by the chattering internet, there is much talk about the importance of having "executive support". It is tossed about in lots of contexts that involve cultural change or process improvement - my own one just happens to be ITSM: ITIL V3 etc. This is one of the most repeated glib statements in the IT world. What if you don't?
In my experience it is more often the case that the business executive don't give a toss - ITSM is internal IT stuff that they are already paying for: it is expected process improvement. And the modern CIO goes along with that: he/she is focused on business peers not day-to-day operations. Even the IT operations manager is so harassed that ITSM is but one of many concerns - it is a tick-the-box and lip-service to the troops. The true case of the ops manager being passionate, the CIO focused and the CEO convinced is the exception.
I'm reminded of the old cookbook recipe for stew that began with "First catch your rabbit". That is easy to say, harder to do.
I suspect this is another instance of that syndrome where the gurus get a distorted perspective because they only get invited in to sites where there is enough money to contemplate engaging them, and so that in turn implies that most often the executive already have their hands in their pockets. The sites they talk to tend to already have a rabbit in hand.
So the advice tells us that if executive support is absent, then change can't be done. You must sell the idea first. If you can't get the executive on board, then give up. You are too brilliant: they don't deserve you. Walk away: don't take the contract, find another job. Without executive support you are doomed. It seems to me too easy to say. This is an even more glib response from the pundits. For most of us, we either work in the place, so quitting is a bad option, especially in 2010. And/or we want to make a difference anyway, to hell with the unsupportive execs. Or the family is going to starve if we don't take the contract.
So instead of designing approaches to cultural change on the assumption of sound executive support, I wish the pontificators would start from a more realistic position of assuming executive support is NOT there and isn't going to be any time soon.
Instead of theory being a recipe for rabbit stew, based on the unlikely case that we have access to rabbits and are any good at killing them, we need recipes for generic stew, cooked with the ingredients to hand. Most of the time, those ingredients don't include rabbits or committed executives.