A Night with Sinterklaas: Unwrapping ITIL’s Guiding Principles

Date: 05/12/2023| Category: IT Governance & Service Management| Tags:

It is that time of the year again. Children prepare their shoes next to the fireplace (or central heating) and their voices sing through the night. Shall he make it this year? Shall he be on time to present us with his gifts and an amazing evening? Every year Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas) leaves us, young and old, with a feeling of excitement and great expectations. But what about his story, how does he put up with the pressure of his services and how does he make sure he delivers on time?

A Mission in Need of Modernization:

Every year around, Sinterklaas is faced with a set of different challenges; hard-to-define wishes, timely delivery hurdles and the ever-changing and more digital world. He would need an update to his “Holy Book” and a more structured way of working to not let anyone down. It is apparent that he should seek for a solution to align his operations with the demands of a modern, technology-driven era.

He also has a rather strange team consisting of a horse and his helpers ‘pieten’. They use tools such as boats, ladders (as they prefer chimney delivery) and somehow always end up in trouble.

However, there is hope. Best practices, and especially ITIL 4, could support Sinterklaas to assure a more efficient and effective way of delivery. It could help him make his customers happy, and especially deliver on time, with less stress and as expected by all Belgian children.

Sinterklaas and the 7 ITIL guiding principles

Let’s apply the 7 ITIL guiding principles to Sinterklaas his user case and discover how they could revolutionize his gift-delivery operations.

Focus on Value

Value is central to IT and service management, this principle is universally applicable to direction, planning, and improvement. Everyone in an organisation plays a part in directing actions, at their own level and those below, towards initiatives that will create value. If they do not create enough value, plans will be altered. The fundamental aim of most improvements is creating or protecting value, and this encompasses many perspectives, including customers’ and users’ experiences.

Sinterklaas seems to be fixated on timely deliveries. He needs to consider the importance of focusing on value. Creating memorable experiences for children and understanding the impact of his actions beyond just gift delivery could add a new dimension to his mission.

Start Where You Are

It is always helpful to start with an accurate view of the current state. People who are directed to change something that appears to be working are unlikely to be enthusiastic. When planning an improvement, validating what is already delivering value and focusing efforts on real improvement opportunities will prevent wasted effort.

Acknowledging his current state Sinterklaas should identify existing strengths like his talent for creating magical experiences and his overall will to make children happen. He should also acknowledge the areas for improvement, ensuring that efforts are directed where they mattered most.

Progress Iteratively with Feedback

Some leaders fail to ask for feedback at the right times and at the right levels. Through being open to iterative progress with ample feedback, progress can be sustained and participants can feel heard and valued.

Embracing feedback is crucial for Sinterklaas. With the introduction of tools like letterboxes, Facebook accounts, and public appearances, he can aim to improve communication and adapt to the evolving expectations of children and parents. He can also definitely use AI tools that can help him rhyme his poems and come up with creative ways to surprise children!

Collaborate and Promote Visibility

Directions that are given alongside context allow people to make better decisions as they work, and to produce better results. People work better when they understand the scope of a plan and know they are actively engaged in moving it forward.

Sinterklaas’s helpers can be quite chaotic and literally all over the place. Every year they manage to lose gifts, they forget addresses and they sometimes even mess up the logistics. For a smoother operation, Sinterklaas needs to be committed to more collaborative efforts with his team. Meetings should be scheduled to enhance coordination, ensuring everyone knows their roles and responsibilities, leading to a smoother operation and happy children!

Think and Work Holistically

The ITIL Service Value System (link) has many interactions and dependencies. If one element is changed, other areas are likely to be affected. It is important to consider how your activities overlap with others.

Considering the interconnected nature of his gift-delivery system, Sinterklaas should consider expanding his already extensive library at home in Spain. He should incorporate new books that could guide his team in using technology, people, practices, and governance effectively.

Seeing that he will also have some time on his hands till he travels back to the North next year, he should consider following an ITIL 4 Foundation course.

Keep it Simple and Practical

Complex directions and plans are difficult to follow. Streamline them wherever possible.

Simplifying operations could be the key to success for Sinterklaas. Utilizing the power of the internet, email, and outsourcing streamlined deliveries, reducing the workload and ensuring a more practical approach.

Optimize and Automate

Every part of the Service Value System should be optimized to function as efficiently as possible. Bureaucratic governance practices may give direction that is impractical to follow, wasting time and effort. Complex plans are difficult to implement. Improvements are often targeted at optimizing the ways we work or provision services.

Sinterklaas can also take inspiration by the concept of optimizing and automating. This way he can envision a future where AI would play a role in his operations, reducing waste, improving efficiency, and contributing positively to the environment.

Time for transformation

It is clear that even old legends like Sinterklaas can continue to keep on learning. He could benefit from modern day management practices and smooth over his challenging operations. By embracing the 7 ITIL guiding principles, Sinterklaas can find a way to adapt his age-old traditions to meet the expectations of a changing world. Perhaps, in the spirit of the season, there is hope for all of us to transform, optimize, and deliver joy more effectively in our own endeavors.

Looking for an overview of the 7 ITIL guiding principles? Download yours here.


About the author

Ricky Boeykens

Ricky Boeykens is a Trainer and Consultant for ITIL®, PRINCE2®, Lean Six Sigma and many other topics. He joined the QRP International Belgium Team in 2023. You can find more info on his Linkedin profile.

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