Off leash area ahead sign for dogs

Is Process Improvement Off-leash?

Process Improvement is a phrase with baggage that evokes a number of cognitive biases that affect behaviors, not always for the better. To test this hypothesis I asked a few people (no attempt at a valid survey). Two responses reflect the wide variety of reactions that the phrase generates. Lisa Halberg of Relativity used terms like coercion and resistance whereas Chris Teter of West Monroe Partners used terms such as meetings, tweaking, and opportunities for automation. Both answers establish anchor biases that will color how the respondent will react to the phrase process improvement. When pressed the word “process” carried most of the negative baggage. Part of the overfocus on the word process is a reflection of a not uncommon misinterpretation of the first value in the Agile Manifesto, “…we have come to value: Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.” Some of the people that have embraced agile reject the idea that processes are required. While this does not reflect a consensus view, those that hold that belief are often the loudest voices in the crowd. On the other side of the coin are those who have adopted an equally dangerous obsession with the idea that discovery and knowledge work is as mechanistic as an assembly line and therefore can be described and proscribed down to the task level. Neither extreme makes sense except in very specific scenarios. Most of us live in the great gray area where some common process exists but nothing is perfectly deterministic. If we focus on the one core principle the greatest majority of knowledge workers can agree upon, the need to continuously learn and improve, we can find a neutral phase with a useful set of characteristics to help broaden our perspective.  (more…)

Perfect Tulips

Not everything is as perfect as tulips in the spring!

Process improvement is a critical 21st-century survival skill all organizations need to embrace.  In the late 20th-century process improvement was a code word for cost-cutting and outsourcing, in 2020 it is about reinvention and changing capabilities so that organizations and teams can seek a new short-term equilibrium. Change is initiated by defining scope and making decisions about what will be within the focus of a process improvement initiative, but that just gets the ball rolling.  The next step requires diagnosing a set of problems. IDEAL combines both identifying and qualifying opportunities. At the risk of messing with the acronym, I’m going to approach components separately beginning with identification.  (more…)

Dawn over Lake Erie

Focusing on process improvement is cyclic. During economic contractions, the need to become more efficient and effective at the same time becomes more important because process improvement can have an impact on jobs, budgets, and strategies. That said, process improvement is almost always focused on teams rather than value chains or organizations. In times of economic stress, that team-specific focus usually leave improvements on the table. The three common focuses for process improvement initiatives are: (more…)

The outcome will reflect communication patterns!

In 1967, Melvin Conway observed that organizations design systems that mimic their communication structure.  The social interactions between programmers and groups of programmers cause this outcome. There have been studies at Harvard, MIT and elsewhere that support Conway’s Law (know in academic circles as the mirroring hypothesis). Conway’s Law is important because it links organizational structure to outcomes. Conway’s Law effects not only the organization of work but what work a team does. Two competing organization structures illustrate the impact of Conway’s Law. The first occurs where the teams organized by functional area and the second is the organization of people by value stream. (more…)

You Are Here?

Assessments in agile come under a wide variety of names: appraisals, health checks, audit or even assessments. These terms are commonly conflated.  Assessments are a tool to prove a point. There are many approaches to assessing agile in a team or organization ranging from self-assessment questionnaires to formal observer-led appraisals. What gets assessed and the approach an organization chooses depends on the point of the assessment. All assessments create a baseline, a line in the sand from which to measure change.  At the same time, an assessment is a benchmark. Benchmarks are a comparison against a standard (real or implied). For example, an organization could use the principles in the Agile Manifesto or the framework in the Scrum guide as a standard to compare their behavior against to generate a benchmark. Put very succinctly, baseline defines where an organization (or team) is at a point in time, while a benchmark is a comparison to a standard. Assessments of any type, whether to generate a baseline, a benchmark or both, require time and effort which might be better spent creating a product, unless there is a good reason to do an assessment. There are three macro reasons why an organization might assess the agile journey that can generate value: (more…)

Book Cover

 

This week we conclude our re-read of The Checklist Manifesto with a few final thoughts and notes and a restatement of a checklist for a checklist that Stephen Adams contributed in the comments for Chapter 9 – they deserve more exposure.  A few of the key takeaways are: (more…)

Book Cover

 

This week we tackle Chapter 9 of The Checklist Manifesto .  The Save is the final chapter in the book.  Next week we will discuss our final thoughts and decide on the next book.  In chapter 9 Atul Gawande expresses his experiences with the surgical checklist he helped to create.  A combination of emotion and evidence.

The Save is the shortest chapter in The Checklist Manifesto weighing in at only 5 pages.  Perhaps I should have considered the chapter when we talked about The Fix (chapter 8) but I even though the chapter is short the message is important.  The two major points in this chapter are:

  1. Don’t be a hypocrite.  Change agents must eat their own dog food. In this instance, Gawande talked about how he used the checklist in his own practice.  When you are helping to shape change, using your own advice provides a number of benefits. Those benefits include generating feedback based on first-hand observation and taking and holding the moral high ground.
  2. Checklists are effective at improving outcomes.  In the chapter, the author references several examples, including one that saved a patients life, of how checklists are effective to help improve outcomes and generate the conversations between team members.

Given the title of the book, wrapping the up the book with a statement about the effectiveness of checklists is not a shock.  The example of a patient that nearly died that is the backbone of the chapter is important as a final statement because it reiterates that we have to think and talk about what we are doing even if we have performed the action a hundred times before.  Gawande’s message is not dissimilar to the message that L. David Marquet delivered when he described deliberate actions. Our actions regardless of the outcome will have an impact on the world around us, therefore, try to make the impact as positive as possible. Our review of chapter 8 (last week) ended with the admonition “try a checklist,”  After chapter 9 I would add, “because our actions matter.”

We need your input to choose the next book.  I will cut off the poll on October 3rd. Make sure your voice is heard!

Remember to buy a copy of The Checklist Manifesto and READ along!

Previous Installments:

Week 9 – The Hero In The Age of Checklistshttps://bit.ly/2PWu2TC

Week 8 – The Fix – https://bit.ly/2NeKyBE

Week 7 – The Checklist Factoryhttps://bit.ly/2wV3yu3

Week 6 – The First Tryhttps://bit.ly/2Q0PhVt

Week 5 – The Ideahttps://bit.ly/2PCs0Zz

Week 4 – The End Of The Master Builderhttps://bit.ly/2BmIGBc

Week 3 – The Checklisthttps://bit.ly/2KMhVFR

Week 2 – The Problem With Extreme Complexityhttps://bit.ly/2AGZQZX

Week 1 – Approach and Introductionhttps://bit.ly/2LYi9Lv

In week 6 of re-read of The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande (use the link and buy a copy so you can read along) we read about Atul’s first try using a checklist to solve a big problem.  The Chapter is titled The First Try. Let’s just say it is a learning opportunity.

The chapter starts with an example of Dr. Gawande engaging with the World Health Organization (WHO) to help address safety because of the massive increase in the number of surgeries. The problem was not that surgeries were being done, surgery saves lives, but rather the number of complications that happened in conjunction with the surgeries. The rate of post-surgical complications was unacceptably high. (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…)

The goal of learning and leveraging lean principles in an organization is to improve value delivery. In order to get the biggest bang for the buck, practitioners need to take a systems approach to what they analyze and change. Lean, like agile, works best when we change the flow of work. This is one of the reasons value stream mapping is a powerful lean tool. Given the expansive – soup to nuts – perspective, lean practitioners use many techniques to stay focused. The 5 Ms from lean manufacturing is a focusing tool. The 5 Ms provides a framework to consider five of the controllable inputs into any process. While the 5 Ms are part of lean manufacturing, it takes very little imagination to use the 5 Ms as a focusing tool for any process flow. The 5 Ms are: (more…)