Read Part 1   Read Part 2

This is part 3 of an essay based on a presentation I did as part of IFPUG’s Knowledge Cafe Webinar Series. The presentation is titled Software Development: Preparing For Life After COVID-19. I have not heard if the final version has been posted. I do have a copy of the audio which I will edit.  I will also post a PDF of the slides in the near future (email me if you like to have a copy of the slides before they are posted). 

Once we have an idea of what is important: throughput, cycle time, productivity, and delivered defects, deciding when we care about measuring becomes critical. The answer is simple on paper, focus on the product backlog, what is between “Start and Done” and what crosses the line of done (production!). That we care about these three slices of time reflects the need to focus on how the work flows. Only counting the flow of value when it is done is a recognition that, at least in software, if code isn’t in production, you have not delivered.

Data and knowledge have little value unless it is used. In large organizations that use team-level agile or scaled approaches such as SAFe, making changes that impact organizational capabilities is complicated. An approach to combine organizational and teams without losing the power of empowering teams to self-manage how they work requires a model. Models in this scenario need to provide loose constraints that incorporate both organization and team level goals to reduce conflict. This two-level approach requires a mechanism to harness the creative tension that will occur. A note, models that are applied as straight jackets will kill creative tension and generate other forms of tension that will lead to people actively stepping outside the boundaries and acting up. Once upon a time, I listened to Deming walk through the Shewhart Cycle (PDCA) in a session that included about 15,000 other EDS and GM employees worldwide. The simplicity of the cycle approach left its mark on how I see frameworks and cycles. The combined model for a corporate team- and organization-level change requires that an organization to take a systems-thinking (or at the very least a value-chain) point of view. 

Example of Change Model

The outer layer begins with performing measurement and assessments, filtering the results through organizational goals to generate targets, then coaching teams to understand and incorporate high-level targets in how they work and then testing.  The focus of the team level cycle is much more finite. The model shown above uses an example of a process improvement group implementing changes for how they work. In this case, they begin by measuring, developing a backlog, planning, executing a sprint or iteration, and then testing before demonstrating. The words might be different for a team working on software for a product but the concept is the same. The model is a tool to integrate organizational and team change effort so that the organization moves in the same direction.  (I will do a deeper dive on this in a few weeks).

 

Life after COVID 19 will require continuous change. Change in many organizations often happens as periodic events. Remember, periodic improvement IS NOT THE SAME AS continuous improvement. Some changes will always be event-driven. Most of the event-driven changes will be driven by black swan events (events that are not predictable). Deming would have classified those events as special cause variation; fix it but don’t change your process because they will not happen again. Most of the changes we will need to address as we recover from COVID 19 are based on common flaws in the flow of work. These common flows will be exacerbated by changes caused by distributed teams, social distancing, and demand changes. These will need to be addressed as they are discovered. This is a requirement for continuous improvement. Piling up lots of ideas and only addressing periodically is not the same thing and will increase the potential stress on the process or organization.  Most organizations avoid stress!  Small changes over and over are less stressy and less risky. In the end, we need to stay healthy, drive for continuous improvement, and stay employed!