Blog: Process improvement

Understanding what good looks like – what’s our target?

Date: 22-02-2011 15:51 | Author: Cyril Dyer | Category: Process improvement | Tags: change, process, improvement, effective, efficient

When we start out on any journey there’s always a good question to ask, what does good look like?  It doesn’t matter if it’s a holiday, a day out with the kids, and a visit from parents, all in all there’s no reason to ask yourself what does good look like?  But remember what good looks like to you might not be what good looks like to others,  beware good in many cases is a collective good, not just for you.What does good look like?

Here’s another thought - how do you set expectations?  It’s another part of the same question, what does good look like.  What good looks like is defined by what people expect!

In our ever changing world one of the most difficult things to do is to get to good by setting expectations for the people who will go on the journey with you.  Let’s face it setting the expectation of a group is one thing, setting individual expectations is quite different – in today’s fast changing world it’s the latter that’s most forgotten – but it’s the individuals who you’ll be relying on to get you there!

Now, I’m not saying it’s different in every case, not at all, the expectation for an individual maybe in fact the same as what good looks like for the group.  However, in many cases there are individual expectations that need to be set to allow the group to achieve its target.

In summary, good is in the eyes of the beholder, for an individual that maybe one thing as a leader of a group that maybe quite different!

There are already 10688 comments

Polished processes: the road to nowhere?

Date: 05-11-2010 12:40 | Author: Derek Glen | Category: Process improvement | Tags: change, management, communicating

Change management is all about getting an organisation to respond in a different way than today. Perhaps to its suppliers, maybe to its managers, almost always to its customers, even just how its employees respond towards each other. And of course an organisation is made up of people, so when we want an organisation to respond differently given the same inputs, what we REALLY mean is that its people must behave differently.

Often, consistency of response or behaviour is one of the key objectives, and defining top-down policies and standard processes is a way of directing this new behaviour.

But there are still those who focus only on the process. Those who view the writing, reviewing and approval of the new process as the END of the change process, rather than just the beginning. Documents are lodged in repositories and milestones on change project Gantt charts are duly ticked off. Has anything changed? Well a few more megabytes of storage on a server somewhere may now be occupied...but no. Nobody is reading those documents, nobody is using them, nobody is checking to see if they fit the needs of the organisation in practice, and everybody is just doing exactly the same as before.

Even worse are those organisatioWhere's the value?ns where whole libraries of such documents are produced and polished, in an impossible quest for the 'perfect' process - with no hint of any roll-out or deployment until the final product is just right.

But such polishing (without publication) is pointless - because just like a road, the purpose of the process is simply to get us there. If we all stopped driving on roads because they contain a few potholes, we'd never get anywhere. Processes only work when people are using them, arguing about them, replacing them, improving them and making sure they take the organisation in the right direction based on its current drivers and environment.

There are already 9082 comments

When you only have a hammer...

Date: 20-10-2010 12:59 | Author: Derek Glen | Category: Process improvement | Tags: change, process, improvement, tools

We're having some work done on the house at the moment - stripping walls, ripping out fireplaces, that kind of thing. The latest challenge we face involves a couple of pipes and a few bricks from an old fireplace that stick out beyond the line of a wall that we'd like to make flat.


Last week, we had a joiner in doing some other work and my wife asked his opinion about what we should do. He explained that we needed to put a false wall in, bringing the whole surface out by a few inches, which would hide the obstacles. He even offered to do the work for us - all eighteen feet of new wall!

Needless to say we declined, but this was a striking example of how different people will come up with solutions to problems based on what they know and what they are comfortable with (echoing the adage that if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem will look like a nail). The joiner's solution was hopelessly over-engineered - had we asked a plumber, the answer would have likely been to simply move the pipes back a few inches.

If you're faced with changing the way an organisation works, it's worth getting a range of opinions about how to solve the problem. There are always lots of possibilities, and some will be more appropriate than others.

After all, you don't want to build a whole new wall if moving some of the obstructions would be a cheaper, quicker and ultimately more effective solution.

There are already 10521 comments

Have you Got Talent?

Date: 18-06-2010 09:46 | Author: Derek Glen | Category: Process improvement | Tags: process, improvement, assessment, roadmap


The latest round of television talent shows, whether they are searching for a leading lady or an act to perform to royalty, are looking for a 'triple threat': a future star who can act, dance AND sing.

The term originated in American football, used to describe a versatile gridiron player who could run, pass and kick well. Now it is employed more widely to describe anyone with three conspicuous talents.

So could you be a triple threat: are you fit for success? I don't just mean physically fit and mentally fit, but also process fit. It's not enough to have the energy and the intelligence to succeed. You must also have reliable, repeatable, improving systems in place to provide world-class delivery for your customers.

Just like these other conspicuous talents, measurable with a bleep test or IQ test, your process fitness can be measured against a range of international standards and frameworks.

This will highlight your current performance (your 'personal best', if you will) as well as letting you set targets for the future, which can then be used to build a Roadmap for improvement.

There are already 9617 comments

Don't shoot the developer!

Date: 13-04-2010 15:21 | Author: Derek Glen | Category: Process improvement | Tags: management, process, supplier, robust, QA, vendor

A recent report on the top 25 most dangerous coding errors has been used in support of a push by IT security vendors to encourage customers to hold IT developers responsible for the security of their products.

As reported in the online press, this includes a contract template which includes the clause:

"Developer warrants that the software shall not contain any code that does not support a software requirement and weakens the security of the application..."

As the article notes, "In other words, when it comes to application security and QA, the buck stops with the developer. And that's in a contract that likely won't even be seen by the developer and will be signed on his behalf by his employer. It renders the contract unenforceable - so why add a clause like that in the first place?"

The article goes on to state that "management should be taking the lead to impose processes on development, rather than blaming the programmers for a breakdown in process."

This of course emphasises the need for sound development processes, but also demonstrates the purpose and value of effective QA to identify and eliminate defects, as well as to support and improve the use of expected processes and standards.

The Register article concludes: "It's good to see that QA has come back into fashion, despite being re-branded in the guise of security and the paranoia of an 'unseen enemy that cannot be defined'."

Of course, this has always been one of the fundamental elements of the CMMI model, and crucial to a successful process-based transformation programme. One of our clients is presenting a case study this summer about how the creation of a strong and principled QA team proved to be one of the key tipping points on their journey to maturity.

So don't shoot the developer - instead get your standards up to scratch using strong and effective QA.

[This might be a good time to mention Compita's 'QA and Vendor Management' training, which was developed specifically to support the improvement drive of a CMMI Level 3 organisation and embraces the topics of software quality assurance, internal auditing in an IT environment and supplier management. It can be run internally as a 3-day intensive workshop, or spread out and delivered over a longer period. Give us a call to discuss who, in your organisation, would benefit most from this workshop.]




There are already 7032 comments

Get your suppliers involved in process improvement

Date: 07-04-2010 15:39 | Author: Derek Glen | Category: Process improvement | Tags: process, improvement, supplier, integrated, teams, relationship

"The quality of a product or service is directly related to the quality of the processes used to produce it" is all very well so long as you have control over those processes. But what about all those components and activities which are provided by your suppliers? How can we take ownership or responsibility for what we deliver unless we can assure the quality of all its components?

Of course the answer is that we can't. But what we can do is work as closely as possible with our partners across the vendor-client divide to ensure that they are bought in and can contribute to our improvement efforts.

Follow the link below for an excellent article on how to engage your suppliers as part of your integrated team to deliver continuous process improvement.

There are already 7316 comments