Process Improvement


Today we begin the read of the The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande (use the link and buy a copy so you can read along). The version of the book we are reading is published by Metropolitan Book, 2009 and is the 22nd printing. The book has nine chapters and with acknowledgments has 209 pages. My reading plan is one chapter per week, therefore, the re-read will span 11 weeks (including today).  

Introduction

Until relatively recently I did not read forewords and introductions. I think I have missed a lot of contexts. The Checklist Manifesto starts with two stories from the medical arena. In the first story, the doctor missed a piece of knowledge that nearly killed the patient. If the attending physician had asked about the type of weapon that caused the wound the patient would have had less of an issue. In the second story, the surgical team missed a slight (but important) treatment deviation that stopped the patient’s heart. The patient only survived because the team stumbled over the deviation in the norm.

Prior to writing The Checklist Manifesto the paper, Toward a Theory of Medical Fallibility (note the paper, although thought provoking is difficult to get. I found a source to read online but a copy is $18 USD) made a major impact on Gawande’s thought process. The paper lays out a framework to understand why mistakes are made. There are two overall categories of mistakes. The first is due to havingonly partial understanding. For example, trying to generate cold fusion and failing, falls into this category because no one knows how to generate cold fusion, we have a partial understanding. The second category is ineptitude. Ineptitude describes incidences that in which knowledge exists but is not applied correctly. Checklists, and therefore the book, are a tool to attack the second type of incident. The idea, that some mistakes or errors are controllable and some are not might not sound earth-shattering. Not adopting a way to deal with those that are controllable is disconcerting.  

The introduction was worth the price of admission! Why didn’t I read introductions and forewords in the past . . . silly me.

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SPaMCAST 493 features our essay titled Thoughts on Kaizen The punchline is that the goal of continuous improvement is to help teams to eliminate waste (Muda, Muri, Mura), while improving an organization’s capability to deliver value.

Our second column features Jeremy Berriault.  In this installment of the QA Corner (https://qacorner.blog/).  Jeremy and I talked about his upcoming appearance at QAI Quest. Jeremy is talking about TDD test cases and participating in the Managers Solutions Workshop.  

Anchoring the cast is  Wolfram Müller. Wolfram co-authored Hyper-Productive Knowledge Work Performance, The TameFlow Approach with Steve Tendon.  We talk about Chapter 22 titled In Practice with Scrum.  Wolfram can be found on LinkedIn at https://bit.ly/2qXvgnw

Re-Read Saturday News

In week eight of the re-read of L. David Marquet’s Turn the Ship Around! we discuss chapters 10 and 11, titled Under Way on Nuclear Power and  I Intend To . . .”.

Current Installment:

Week 8: Under Way on Nuclear Power and ”I Intend To . . .” – https://bit.ly/2rnvkgx (more…)

You can ride the continuous improvement train forever!

Kaizen is the Japanese word for improvement. In business, that definition gets expanded to encompass a broader meaning. Kaizen in the workplace is continuous improvement generated by numerous small, incremental changes. Because the changes generated through a Kaizen approach are small they are identified, analyzed, piloted and implemented quickly, shortcutting bureaucracy that drives the cost of change upward. Kaizen shortens the cycle time from idea generation to value delivery. The pedigree of Kaizen traces back to the idea of continuous improvement, which is one of the central tenants of the Toyota Production System (TPS). The scope of continuous improvement programs can include the whole organization: from the executive offices to the shop floor, and address issues impacting process and flow. Kaizen, continuous improvement, is industry and technology agnostic and is applicable in all walks of life. Kaizen might be the most democratic approach to change. Regardless of whether an organization takes a pluralistic approach, the goal of continuous improvement is to help teams to eliminate waste (Muda, Muri, Mura), while improving an organization’s capability to deliver value. (more…)

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Software Process and Measurement Cast 490 features a return visit from Michael West.  Michael West is the author of Return On Process (ROP): Getting Real Performance Results from Process and Real Process Improvement Using the CMMI Michael and I talked process improvement and how process improvement translates to the bottom line.  Mr West originally appeared on the SPaMCAST 308 [https://bit.ly/2ITlKsf]

Michael’s bio:

Michael West is a life-long practitioner and student of process improvement. He is the co-founder of Natural Systems Process Improvement (Natural SPI), a consultancy specializing in designing, developing, and deploying process systems that enable measurable business performance improvement gains. Mr. West’s process insights and innovations have helped many organizations in various sectors of the economy achieve real process and performance improvement. His process consulting clients include ATK, Autodesk, AVL, BAE, BB&T, Crane Aerospace, DCS, Deloitte, Sandia National Labs, Reliability First, and the US Navy. Mr. West frequently presents and speaks at industry conferences, and is the author of Real Process Improvement Using the CMMI (CRC Press, 2004) and Return On Process (ROP): Getting Real Performance Results from Process Improvement (CRC Press, 2013).

Contact Michael at:

Web: http://www.naturalspi.com/

Email: michael@naturalspi.com

Twitter: @ItsTheProcess

Re-Read Saturday News

In week five of the re-read of L. David Marquet’s Turn the Ship Around! (https://amzn.to/2qujXmL) we tackle chapters five and six.  These two chapters, titled Call to Action and Whatever They Tell Me To Do! continue to tell the stories that form the basis for Marquet’s leadership model.

Current Installment:

Week 5: Call to Action and Whatever they tell me to do!https://bit.ly/2IXZugS


Previous Installments: (more…)

Get The Beat!

Takt time is the beat or cadence of a process. The word Takt, translated from German, is the baton stroke an orchestra conductor uses to control the tempo or flow of the music. Based on the “demands” of the score the conductor uses the baton to signal changes in the beat. Lean uses this metaphor as a monitoring and predictive tool. Takt time is the completion rate at which finished product meets customer demand. The concept provides a useful tool to monitor manufacturing, transaction processing and even predictability in the software arena. In all cases, the goal of determining Takt time is to match or control production with demand. Matching demand contributes to improved customer satisfaction and quality.

To calculating takt time, divide the Net Available Time by Customer Demand. (more…)

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You have to measure to improve!

The nine most commonly cited reasons for an agile transformation range from coldly tangible to ethereal.  As we have noted, each of the reasons can berestated as a question(s) that can be answered quantitatively.  How the question(s) is stated provides clarity to the organization’s goal.  This is no different than the way acceptance criteria and test cases define the nuances and provide clarity to user stories.  Today, I’m presenting an example of how data can be used as a feedback loop to highlight misinterpretation of intent and provide an impetus for behavior change. (more…)

Quote from Mark Twain - too much whiskey is barely enough

Can you prove it?

Organizations and team embrace a framework or technique for a purpose. That purpose is generally to address a real or perceived problem.  When you get very specific, each change is done a different reason.  When teams or organizations are asked whether they attained their goals, solved the problems they intended or realized the promised benefits, very few have gathered more than a handful of success stories before losing focus and moving to the next big thing. Unless you can answer whether the framework or technique delivered tangible value,  leaders will be reluctant to spend money on changes.  Best practices are a point in case.  Best practices are, by definition, practices that some have found useful (or at least that someone has professed are useful).  Every process improvement and/or best practice adoption that is not legally mandated needs to follow the following high-level feedback loop.

  1. Decide why you are making the change and what the outcome of the change will be in tangible terms. Developing a solid reason for why you are making a change may sound like a trivial step, however, the rationale will often directly impact the passion for making the change. People pursue survival changes with a lot more vigor than incremental quality of life improvements.
  2. Develop a hypothesis of why the change you are making will satisfy the rationale for the change.  Changes that actually work rarely are the outcome of magical thinking or dumb luck. If there is no logical reason the change you are proposing will have an impact you are very likely wasting time and money.  Use the scientific method!
  3. Set SMART goals that will be used to track and evaluate the change.  As a reminder, SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.  The goals should cover the journey and outcome based on the hypothesis crafted in step 2.
  4. Benchmark the process you are changing.  Consider collecting data specific to the change and data to evaluate the impact on the overall system.
  5. Make the change.  You still have to make and support the change.  Your journey measures will be helpful to make sure that the change is being implemented well.
  6. Collect the data to show the impact (compared to the benchmark developed in step 4) for several cycles after the change has been implemented.
  7. Use the data you collect to tune the process. Pick a feedback loop and tune the process.  Rarely are major changes perfect right out of the box.  Using feedback to tune the process helps to ingrain the change and to make sure it is delivering value.
  8. Report your findings.  Share the impact with everyone involved.  Positive data will help to reinforce the change and will help sell the next round of changes.  In scenarios where the change doesn’t deliver value reporting reinforces the principle of transparency.  If a change doesn’t deliver, don’t double down on a failure; revert back and try something else.

People make changes to how they work on a daily basis.  Some changes are minor and, in some cases, are not worth developing a full-scale proof of impact. For example, deciding on whether to order grilled tofu or pizza for the team lunch doesn’t require a proof of impact.  Some large-scale changes like adopting Scrum, Kanban or DevOps require a great deal of time, focus, and money. It makes sense to be able to answer the question of whether you got what we thought you would get with something more substantive than a shrug.

Next an example

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