The Dante 9 circles of hell for organizational development – part I

Just as Dante in the classic 14th-centry poem “Divine Comedy” go through a lot passing the 9 circles of hell, we too have to find our way past many difficulties reaching our objectives when developing our organization. This could of course be any type of organization, but for me it is always about helping the IT functions evolve using IT service management best practices. Over the years, based on many change programs, implementing and/or improving ITSM processes, I have assembled a long list of the obstacles, pitfalls and challenges that I use in my daily work to help my client organizations evolve. Some of these are more common and causes more damage than others, let us continue the Dante comparison and simply call them the 9 circles of hell. This is the first in the series, dealing with the first 3 levels.

Let me guide you through the nine circles of organizational development hell, sit tight, you are in for a rough ride!

When Dante Alighieri started his journey his first 3 challenges was:

  • Limbo – The 1st circle
  • Lust – The 2nd circle
  • Gluttony – The 3rd circle



Oh ye, of little faith. There are always non-believers, those who simply ridicules, does not accept and many times are opposing change. I guess we all heard the phrase “this is how we always done this”, one of the most unproductive sentences on this planet. Not dealing with the sceptics, neglecting the criticism and under estimating the negative forces to what we are trying to achieve is one of the biggest factors why change fail. I have seen so many perfect processes, great documentation and a perfectly balanced rollout in the organization with sugar on top. Yet failing big due to exactly this, as soon as the lime light goes out things very quickly goes back to the way they were, or even worse, they really enter the limbo state in which chaos is king.

Just as Dante had to deal with the unbaptized and the virtuous pagans, we have to have a good plan for how to make our toughest opponents becoming our ambassadors. This is usually best done by including them early in the work effort, listening to their negativity at first and patiently converting them to firm believers. Suddenly they become our ambassadors.


If there is a will, there is a way. Sure, this is not at all untrue. However, valuable pure will power really is it cannot be our driving force, rather our reserve power to use when needed. In the beginning of a change effort there is a lot of will, and people want to do things, change things and many become passionate about achievement. The lust for change are so great that we forget what is most basic, the change need to be realistic, it cannot be too hasty and not too sloppy, we need to plan and then execute that plan. Starting to run in one direction, filled with change desire, will most of the time lead us to places we did not want to go. Organizational change takes time, needs to be systematic and we must learn to calibrate our efforts and our desire to change to last for the long run.

This is best dealt with doing a good plan, and that plan should be based on dividing the change in small manageable parts, iterative if that is preferred but most importantly, done in baby steps. Control the change passion and focus the lust on where it is needed.


Over-indulgence or over-consumption is an organizational development killer. What I refer to is trying to achieve 100% excellence at once, thus using up the change energy directly. The first version, or even the second or third, will not be perfect, but it will be significantly better than before. We cannot try to make something perfect at once, thus over-exploiting the change energy, our resources. I have seen too many organizations using up 85-90% of the resources for the process documentation only to fail in the rollout since they do not have the resources needed to train, enforce and improve the processes.

If I got a dollar for each fancy-schmancy but unused process documentation collecting dust on some shelf or in some forgotten place on the Intranet I would have time to blog a lot more, just taking pauses to swim in money.

Dante had to feed the Cerberus monster mud to be able to pass this third circle. Those of you that read my previous blog (naked ITIL) or maybe the great article by Robert Falkowitz about minimum viable processes, has already heard this. Do not try to do something great at once, fix something that works, and use the 80-20 rule. Before we run, we must learn to walk.

Learn to recognize these organizational development circles of hell to deal with them in an efficient way. In the next blog, we will talk about Greed, Anger and Heresy. The last one also means me giving the DevOps buzz some perspective.

Stay safe out there and do not get caught in any of the circles!



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