Mars Lander

 From Ad-hoc 7 to the Magnificent 7

The Mission Director was very worried when he heard that the Mission control team would be decided by drawing names from a hat? It would appear they have very unusual staff selection procedures in Belgium he thought to himself.

A team of 7 adhoc, randomly selected delegates would be responsible for creating a high performing team and managing the itSMF Belgium Marslander mission scheduled for 10 December. One of the online delegates was sitting in a star wars space cruiser and had Chewbacca sitting behind him. This looks like it could be an interesting session thought the Mission Director….

In this business simulation workshop the team played the business and IT roles in the Mission control room of the MarsLander mission. As a team they needed to balance increasing demands and opportunities from different stakeholders. Innovating new products and service offerings, optimizing existing business value, managing technical debt as well as aligning and improving end-to-end value streams. As a team they were faced with running business as usual as well as Transforming to new agile ways of applying ITSM using ITIL®4 concepts. All of this remotely!

Welcome to the challenges that many IT organizations are facing in this age of COVID and digital disruption.

As the mission launched it was clear that the team was struggling with the workload, trying to understand business value and prioritize work. There were conflicting business priorities and little business governance. Continual improvement work, critical to enable the team to become a high-velocity organization was ignored for short term priorities. It was unclear who was working on what. There was poor situational awareness to enable choices to be made, unclear roles and responsibilities and decision making authorities, little coaching and support in applying new ‘agile’ ways of working. Prioritiziation seemed to be based on ‘who shouts the loudest’ and whatever choices were made somebody would not be happy an IT would get the blame! The team recognized many of the challenges they face in their daily reality.

Applying agile ITSM concepts from ITIL®4

The team then explored ITIL concepts such as the Service Value System and the Guiding Principles, defining and agreeing desirable behaviors around ‘Focus on value’, ‘Collaborate and promote visibility’ and ‘progress iteratively with feedback’. In the next round the work flowed smoother, it felt good, the business felt more able to take rapid decisions, improvement work was increasing the ability to do more with less, with more speed and higher quality – reducing waste, rework and downtime. There was a demonstrable improvement in Value.

The questions were – ‘How did we manage to take 7 adhoc chosen delegates and turn them into an end-to-end high performing team’? ‘What can we learn from the experience and take away and apply’?  

Progress iteratively with feedback

Delegates were asked three questions, and captured their findings on the ‘progress iteratively with feedback’ board. 

What did you learn?

  • Importance of visualization (situational awareness, decision making, identifying constraints).
  • Importance of good priority mechanisms (aligned to stakeholder(s) value).
  • Importance of governance vs firefighting (who shouts the loudest).
  • The different types of value work (Value creation, Value leakage, Value improvement).
  • The importance of agreeing (and addressing people on) roles, responsibilities, decision making authorities.
  • Visualize value (goals) as an entry point for prioritization.
  • Agree and define value (from different stakeholder perspectives).
  • Explain what value is to teams and how we use it for prioritization or escalation.

What can you take-away and use personally?

  • Check on a weekly basis what went right and what needs improving with the team(s).
  • Use the guiding principles (To define what ‘behaviors’ will we see. E.g. What does ‘Focus on value’ look like? What does effective ‘Collaboration’ look like?).
  • Visualize all value types on boards to enable shift left, also use a reflection board.
  • The role of governance to balance conflicting goals and priorities.
  • Complete overview of backlog (including problems and how they relate to risk and value leakage).
  • Prioritizing problems (and being able to make the business case).

What can you take away and adopt in your team/organization?

  • Have team more involved in the value story (understand business value and the ‘why’ question).
  • Review SLAs – are they relevant and matched to business impact? (Risk, critical business moments, value).
  • Visualize value (Portfolio, change calendar, team boards and backlogs – how operational work relates to value and how service management adds to value enablement).
  • Create a reflection board (Online) to practice ‘progress iteratively with feedback’ (Engage and Empower people to initiate improvements).
  • Improve visibility on status and priority (including resource usage, what people are working on, waste, priority).
  • Categorize all types of value work in a sprint and prioritize with relevant stakeholders, discuss and agree which value will NOT be realized.
  • Improve communication between teams (using visualization and also active listening, feedback).
  • Ensure roles, responsibilities and goals are known and agreed and give feedback on these.
  • Insist on the importance of effective governance (decision making authorities and guidelines).
  • Get stakeholders involved, value enablement is everybody’s business.
  • Ask the business if in doubt, their event horizon are the customers and their satisfaction.
  • Challenge legacy if it is a blocker for operational improvements.


Many organizations are faced with similar challenges to those experienced in this workshop.
Many organizations are working in SILO’s, but the demands imposed upon IT require improved end-to-end collaboration. Thinking in Value streams, working as one Service Team to enable high-velocity IT.

Yet many struggle with translating the theory of ‘new ways of working’ such as agile, DevOps, ITIL4 into practice, and many struggle with breaking down SILOs to create high performing end-to-end teams.

In less than 4 hours, these ad-hoc delegates have captured individual, team and organizational improvement actions to take away. By collaborating, capturing feedback, coaching and agreeing ‘iterative’ improvements focused on value.

So how does progress looks like? Check out the reflection boards.
These were the initial experiences of the participants and how they evolved.  

This is how an ad-hoc group transformed to team magnificence in two rounds.

Which of their takeaway actions should YOU be adopting to create the magnificent 7 in your organization?
What value do YOU need to deliver to YOUR business in this age of the digital economy.

What are YOU doing to enable and empower YOUR teams to successfully adopt ‘new agile ways of working’?

As itSMF, we are honored to have had yet another eventful evening with Paul Wilkinson and GamingWorks. It was rich in learning, rewarding for all players and insightful for all involved.

With this blog, that experience is shared. If you feel like this might be something your organization can benefit from as well, reach out!

This session concludes event stream for this year. For the second half of this Corona year, our remote events were all interconnected, with one common focus: ‘people’.

In June, it started with ABC, ‘Attitude Behavior Culture’, in which Paul Wilkinson retold the message that ABC is a key component in successful service delivery but we still struggled with it today. The resulting ABC workshop confirmed what was said. It resulted in some nice take-aways for the participants. To further crack the hard Behavior nut, Robert den Broeder elaborated how OBM, ‘Organisational Behavior Management’, suggested an environment, which enables desired behavior.

The in-depth ITIL4 session explained how ITIL4 promotes agile service management and how stakeholders are involved. And all sessions crystalized into the Remote MarsLander event, were participants experienced what was presented previously.

From our side, every session was an interesting learning experience and based on the feedback, the participants had a similar experience. The itSMF Belgium chapter wants to thank all speakers we had this year, for sharing their passion with the community.

For 2021, stay tuned for more insightful events as the service management world evolves further into a world of digital economy and is required to support the always-on service consumption. There are ample new frontiers to explore and existing practices to connect. 2021 will be an adventure!

Your itSMF team wishes you all the best for 2012. Stay safe, stay smart, stay connected!