Saturday, April 26, 2014

Who is Responsible for Quality in IT (Or Any Department)?

When Edward Deming, the Grandfather of Quality, taught his methods to the Japanese in the 1950's, he was working with a group that had historically been known for poor quality. Invited by the Japanese Union of Scientists and Engineers to assist Japan in their post-war reconstruction efforts, Deming taught Japanese management, scholars and engineers to focus on quality in order to produce world-class results and become competitive in world markets.

Japanese Leadership
During his early lectures, Deming quickly realized that quality cannot be sustained unless an organization’s
leadership focuses on its importance. Initially, he lectured plant managers and engineers who had no authority to implement change. When Deming consulted with his Japanese hosts, they understood the problem and arranged for him to speak to about 100 top-level business leaders.

Deming instilled in these leaders a sense of responsibility for quality in their organizations. He maintained that, ultimately, quality is created in the boardroom and is the responsibility of top management. With senior management supporting quality efforts, the Japanese companies and economy would flourish.

Japanese Success
Deming predicted that Japanese companies would export their products all over the world and companies in other countries would be clamoring for trade protection from the Japanese within five years if they followed his recommendations for improving quality. Although the Japanese business leaders did not initially share his vision, they did as he instructed so they would not lose face. Japan surprised the world with their success and even beat Deming’s prediction by a year.

You probably know the rest of the story regarding Japan's success and what American organizations had and still have to do to catch up with Japanese firms. American firms confused quantity with quality. Demand for American goods was so high in the 50's and 60's the American manufacturing companies assumed this translated to quality for the customer.

However, this misconception was created from the great economies of scale available to American companies due to the war engine. At the time, the United States was the only country in the world which could produce at levels necessary to meet demand. As soon as Japan could both meet demand and offer higher quality, American companies fell behind in world markets.

Putting Out Fires
I have found that many IT organizations function similarly to the manufacturing model that existed before Deming’s quality movement. They judge the quality of their product, IT services, by the demand for that product.

For example, when a system goes down and IT team members scramble to get it working again, companies reward this behavior by praising the heroes who got up in the middle of the night to fix the issue. These individuals are suddenly visible and valuable. They are motivated to continue putting out fires rather than to improve system stability. The incentive to become system arsonists is greater than the motivation to create quality systems.

Continuous improvement is a hard sell for some IT professionals because doing a quality job means nobody notices IT. The better the systems run, the fewer chances there are for heroics. A quality IT group is almost invisible.

Deming’s 14 Points
Below are Deming’s 14 points for management transformation. They were originally published in Out of the Crisis by W. Edwards Deming.

Although the 14 points were written for a manufacturing scenario, try to translate the recommendations into ideas for an IT team. Following these points in your IT group can help you focus on making quality everyone's responsibility.
1. Create constancy of purpose toward improvement of product and service, with the aim to become competitive and to stay in business, and to provide jobs.
2. Adopt the new philosophy. We are in a new economic age. Western management must awaken to the challenge, must learn their responsibilities, and take on leadership for change.
3. Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality. Eliminate the need for inspection on a mass basis by building quality into the product in the first place.
4. End the practice of awarding business on the basis of price tag. Instead, minimize total cost. Move toward a single supplier for any one item, on a long-term relationship of loyalty and trust.
5. Improve constantly and forever the system of production and service, to improve quality and productivity, and thus constantly decrease costs.
6. Institute training on the job.
7. Institute leadership. The aim of supervision should be to help people and machines and gadgets to do a better job. Supervision of management is in need of overhaul, as well as supervision of production workers.
8. Drive out fear, so that everyone may work effectively for the company.
9. Break down barriers between departments. People in research, design, sales, and production must work as a team, to foresee problems of production and in use that may be encountered with the product or service.
10. Eliminate slogans, exhortations, and targets for the work force asking for zero defects and new levels of productivity. Such exhortations only create adversarial relationships, as the bulk of the causes of low quality and low productivity belong to the system and thus lie beyond the power of the work force.
a. Eliminate work standards (quotas) on the factory floor. Substitute leadership.
b. Eliminate management by objective. Eliminate management by numbers, numerical goals. Substitute leadership.
11. Remove barriers that rob the hourly worker of his right to pride of workmanship. The responsibility of supervisors must be changed from sheer numbers to quality.
12. Remove barriers that rob people in management and in engineering of their right to pride of workmanship. This means abolishment of the annual or merit rating and of management by objective.
13. Institute a vigorous program of education and self-improvement.
14. Put everybody in the company to work to accomplish the transformation. The transformation is everybody's job.
Deming’s 14 points transformed manufacturing into a quality-focused delivery system. The same benefits can be realized in IT, creating continuous improvement in IT processes and products. When quality is built into your IT systems you can increase the value of your department to the business, decrease time spent on downtime and reduce the load on team members who have to fix problems caused by a lack of quality.

The Journey Toward Quality
I realize I am not giving much in the way of suggestions for translating the 14 points into action but I would encourage you to study how you can facilitate making quality core to your business.

All the excuses you will hear from your team about why these 14 points won’t work in IT are probably the
same excuses manufacturers made before they made the shift to quality. The arguments have already been made and overcome and the benefits of following the 14 points have been clearly demonstrated.

If you haven’t started the journey toward increased quality and would like help, feel free to reach out to me. I can provide you directions to start. Good luck!

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Future of Leadership and their Role in Value Delivery

The proliferation of process methodologies has not only made the traditional form of managing more uncertain, but has greatly increased the consequences of uncertainty for managers. Value based methodologies emerged as a way to manage and even turn these uncertainties to the organization's advantage.  There are countless ways these methodologies define value, but all methodologies have one commonality which they share to ensure long term success.  Leadership and leadership support for value based change initiatives are the number one variable for success or failure of any such initiative. This post will explore how unconventional leadership supports change in your organization and how
with thoughtful planning and support you can avoid the most common points of failure.
Traditional command and control structured organizations are often not effectively designed for allowing leaders to adequately promote value delivery.  Traditional organizational structures are also not fruitful at turning managers into effective leaders.  Neither are they designed at empowering their workforce, rather they tend to focus on hierarchical decision making which promotes a command and control mentality. 
Value or value creation can be viewed three ways. The customer must value your product or service and be willing to pay for it. It must change the product or service. Finally, it must be done right the first time or keep getting worked on until it’s successful.   Many frameworks do a great job focusing on these three areas.  Although frameworks are great tools at enabling value delivery they can only be utilized if the culture and environment fosters and promote value delivery at every level in the firm, including the individual.  Using Pareto’s law we can deduct that tools/frameworks only represent 20% of the ability to deliver optimal customer value while leadership empowerment and support comprises the additional 80%.  In successful value focused firms 80% of the effort is expended on changing leaders' practices and behaviours, and ultimately their mind set.  Senior management has an essential role in establishing conditions that enable the effort to succeed. Their involvement includes establishing governance arrangements that cross divisional boundaries, supporting a thorough, long-term vision of the organization's value-producing processes, and holding everyone accountable for meeting value driven commitments. This is accomplished through regular, direct involvement and understanding their role in empowering their employees (who should be considered your intellectual capital).   Without this vision any value driven initiative (Lean, Six sigma, Theory of Constraints, agile) will only be seen as the flavour of the month.

Asking yourself “is your customer willing to pay for the activity you are engaged in” can provide tremendous insight when leading.  Defining value in any other terms can undermine the potential of value delivery for the firm.  Leadership often takes too much credit in the value of the organization when they often have created little direct value.  The majority of the value delivered is through the product, services or placement of your firm’s competitive advantage.  This means your greatest potential for value creation often resides in the employees who produce your competitive advantage.  Historically to gain the ranks of manager one had to experience, learn and work in multiple domains of the organization.  Rising the ladder through the learning curve of the organizational layers.  This allowed managers to gain knowledge and experience which could be used to effectively lead and make intelligent decisions.   Today management still rises through the ranks but often they lack the domain knowledge they would have previously gained.  Rapid Technology changes make it difficult for management to have the same depth of knowledge as those they manage.  The pace of change today has created a model where leadership is in stark departure from leadership over the last century.  Traditionally organizational structure evolved as a product starting with the industrial revolution with influence from military modelling.  A command and control model focuses on management making strategic and tactical decisions for their employees to follow without question.  This method worked fairly well in highly controlled production environments which had little variability in their process.   

Peter Drucker  the father of Management predicted then observed a shift in the early 60's which indicated successful firms were putting more decision in the domain of their employees who work with the product.  Product complexity and efficiency were creating an environment where production lines where much more complicated and variable and couldn’t be supported by command and control.  With the emergence of service based industries it quickly became apparent that traditional management methods were out dated (although this had become equally apparent in manufacturing earlier).  Successful organizations today understand the majority of tacit knowledge with tremendous potential resides in the knowledge worker.  This is the same worker who under earlier models lacked decision making authority and operated as order takers.

 What is the primary role of a leader today then? This question is asked far too infrequently, and when it is asked, the answers are predictable and often wrong. But it is a vital question, as without leadership, empowered employees will never get off the ground. Common replies include setting the vision, establishing priorities, and providing motivation. These are important responsibilities which are out dated.  The essential purpose of a leader is to do one thing: create and empower change. Without a good leader, nothing changes. If a lean program, or any other program for that matter, is failing, it is probably not the fault of the tools. It is failing because of lousy leadership. As you embark on your journey, learn all you can about the concepts, practices, principles, and tools of your choosing. But remember, above all, the goal of these tools is value – and value hinges on leadership who promote and empower that change. 

The knowledge workers need to be in control of achieving and promoting change. Therefore, the leader must convey to the worker that they are the ones who own the processes. Leaders need to empower people to have everything in place in order to perform.  Only when they know and are empowered what to do will they feel accountable and take ownership of the processes. In organizations with traditional leadership behaviour, there are frequently policy deployment directions from senior management. The mind set of these leaders is not to involve the people at all. Therefore, people can’t relate to the KPIs (Key Performance Indicator) that cascade down because they can’t understand their contribution or the relevance of the KPIs. People in these companies can’t engage themselves in supporting their senior management in delivering results. Consequently any initiative which does not empower or utilize the input of the employee is more likely to fail. 

Leaders must focus on commitment to endlessly invest in people and promote a culture of continuous improvement.  There is no destination for value delivery models, there's only the journey.  As a leader you should never consider your “Lean” or “Agile” program as complete.  Once you make this mistake you start down the path of contentment and will lose focus on empowering continuous change.  If leaders provide a full and continuous investment in their employees then they will in turn see dedication.  All too often when talking to senior management about learning and multi-skilling of employees, they tell us they worry about efficiency.  Learning take times which reduces what can be delivered to the customer.  Therefore, the view is that it is more efficient to have the specialist work on the specialist things (there are times and places for specialists but that’s
for another paper). This might make sense from a traditionalist, but from a product-development-as-knowledge-creation perspective, this kind of thinking is plain wrong and even dangerous. Learning is the major value added activity in product development and knowledge transfer. In the long run, reducing learning will only result in loss in market share and a less valuable staff.  Often management use the excuse that they have to assign resources to satisfy the customer first, which leaves them little or no time to make real change. Their bosses find it hard to argue the point (or use it as a convenient excuse themselves). Value based culture requires you to make the time to make the change—long-term planning and results versus short-term results with little planning.

All leaders have the ability to adapt to the new value driven leadership mind-set.  However, not everyone will be capable of doing it without intensive coaching and support from their own leader or experienced external coaches. Even though initially some of these leaders will not feel comfortable in being a leader in this new system, not many of them leave or are forced to leave because, over time, most will understand the value and adapt to the new leadership system.

Not every leader nor every company culture is ready for this change in leadership mind set. Despite this, many companies have implemented value based tools and techniques for years with tremendous success (Toyota, Boeing, GE) . For example using a lean framework, Center for Ledelse interviewed 400+ companies concluding that only 7% had realized more than 80% of their expectation in their Lean program. This only confirms that these companies need to take action now in adapting Lean leadership behaviour and mind set in to their company culture.  Every leader deserves a chance, but remember you will have to fight a lot of scepticism down that road (insert reference). You will likely need to convince the team members by showing them what is in it for them personally. People will change when they realize that their leaders really want to empower them. Leaders need to be consistent in what they ask for. They should not reduce their requirements. They should not change their communication. Consistency it required and we must accept the fact that it takes time sometimes many years for this change to fully reflect in the culture.

Dedication is required of each team member to strive for self-improvement. Commitment is needed for each team member to ensure the values and principles will be followed and the team
will hold itself accountable. Courage, because the emotions that empowerment invites,  will be unlike anything the employee has ever professionally experienced.  Avoid non-dedicated team members or “partial allocation.” A team member who is in multiple teams does not have the same commitment and shared responsibility as the other members. Part-time people equate to part-time commitment. Part-time commitment leads to team failure. To the maximum amount possible, all members are 100 percent allocated—fully dedicated to their team. The amount of management waste that disappears is amazing.

What you do from this point forward is exciting.  The possibilities for your firm are endless.  There are many sceptics who think value based programs cannot work for them.  They are right, if they keep that mind-set then it can’t.  There is no doubt the concepts presented in this paper can work for you.  From the world’s largest auto maker to the smallest organization you can make this work.  It can work for you, your vendors and even your customers.  Take the time to explore your leadership potential and realize that anything is possible.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Enterprise Change Can Not Be a Project - Creating a Lean Enterprise

In my previous blog post Waste Is Everywhere and It Starts With You  I discussed that constructing enterprise transformations are difficult for a variety of reason (yes and it usually starts with you).  By definition an enterprise transformation is any series of organizational steps leading to improvements which create greater value to your customer and then your organization or resources.  This post will assist you in getting acquainted with starting a transformation initiative and some common techniques you can use to navigate the politics which will block your success.   Beginning a Lean  Culture Transformation can not begin as a project. Let me explain, by definition a project has something with a beginning and and end.  Regardless of how successful your organization is at project and project management at some point a lean project will have a completion date.  At the point of completion what happens to your lean transformation?  In the book Creating a Lean Culture we learn,  "Culture is no more likely a target than the air we breathe. It is not something to target for change. Culture is an idea arising from experience. That is, our idea of the culture of a place or organization is a result of what we experience there. In this way, a company’s culture is a result of its management system. The premise of this book is that culture is critical, and to change it, you have to change your management system. So, focus on your management system, on targets you can see, such as leaders’ behavior, specific expectations, tools, and routine practices. Lean production systems make this easier, because they emphasize explicitly defined processes and use visual controls." Mann, David (2012-01-24). Creating a Lean Culture: Tools to Sustain Lean Conversions, Second Edition.1. First any change initiatives need to have top down support.  This doesn't necessarily mean that upper management needs to manage the change but at a minimum they must fully support the change initiatives and be willing to change themselves.  Additionally with the top down support you must fully tap your intellectual capital but I'll get to that later. 
2. Create a blank slate. Do not come in to the initiative with a pre-conceived notion of what or how to change.  Spend time if you need to getting people on board who can be objective and provide honest input.   While being objective can be difficult, you will already have a room full of pre-conceived solutions if you do not take this step seriously.  After all if you already have the solution to the problem why haven't you succeeded thus far in eliminating it?  This is difficult additionally because most change initiatives within an organization are initially created because they want to solve a specific problem.  In the end the original problem will be solved but TOC and mind mapping will eventually identify your root cause. 
If you're new to this concept or your organization is very basic on conceptualization then start small.  Perhaps do it inside your span of control or as a personal improvement plan for your commission   It's very important that you involve all the intellectual knowledge available on the matter.  If you fear this can't be done initially then narrow your first step to where you can have full access to that knowledge base.  The largest disservice organizations can make is to not involve the knowledge workers and only involve management.  Management certainly can participate but in today's world most intellectual knowledge  is the tacit knowledge of your IC (regardless of industry I find this to be true.  Peter Drucker initially saw this as early as the 1950's and it has only continued to be proven true).  Getting the caveats out of the way allows us to finally talk about what is the first step.  This stride can often be the most difficult because there are so many potential ways to begin (and fail).  There are countless articles and books which describe how to create successful organization change and most are exceptionally good from certain frames.  I find them a bit too prescriptive and often complicate something which should attempt to be simplified.  Being too despotic out of the gate narrows the possibility of success when your case should need to deviate from their framework.  My personal experience has proven that beginning with a mind map is a solid common method to define what previously only exists in your mind.  The information you will discover in a mind map has likely never been mapped for your organization and your ability to learn from the experience is truly priceless.  
Mind mapping takes what are often considered complex relationships between organizational components and allows them to be visually simplified.  This method does a great job in minimizing what Chip Health and Dan Heath defined in their book Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die as the curse of knowledge.  The curse of knowledge occurs when we assume others around us have the some comprehension of concepts which we often consider second nature or back of our hand.  Alas we have a hard time often explaining our jobs, product specs or protocols to those who are not inside the organization day in and out.  For example,  if you ever have the opportunity to listen to air traffic controllers working, you will understand what I'm talking about.  Their instructions to pilots are firm and concise but if you're not educated in to their protocol you would not have any idea what they are talking about. 
For example, say you're mapping for IT Project Management role in an IT department.  You would place Project Management as the center section while each additional trunk off the main idea would be the major components of the Project Management role.  This information is identified and facilitated on the map by the members present in the mind mapping session who are calling out the responsibilities of each trunk.  The below example is a mind map created for an IT shop I was consulting several years back.  The participants were allowed to take the conversation as deep as they wanted without the worry of political fallout or conflict.  Recommendation - I often do not invite managers to the meetings as they will tend to take control of the conversation.  Managers tend to not want to discuss what  structure really is but what they think it is.  This does not facilitate an honest open session and can prohibit real improvement from occurring.  If you feel management needs to be involved I would encourage setting up a mind mapping session with only managers who are peers and allow them to speak freely.  Additionally I do not recommend sharing the results between groups.   The best test on the delta between the two groups is to have them create their maps organically and independently of each other. 
IT Department mind mapping of the Project Manager position
The facilitator of this session can be anyone but it's generally a good idea to use someone outside the group who doesn't have the curse of knowledge regarding the inner workings of the team.  Additionally it's a good idea to make sure your facilitator is just that, a facilitator and not driving the concepts.  Each trunk is a large concept that generally can't not be compiled to anything larger (agileists can recognize this as an epoch).  When creating your mind map I encourage you to go where the discussion goes.  This may result in jumping around to different trunks but it's unliekely people will be able to identify all components of one trunk at one time.  Furthermore you will start to find that people want to quickly point out the problems when discussing items.  Encourage this but do not dwell on it.  Quickly put it in the branch and move on.  Otherwise these sessions will get bogged down in negativity.  The image above  shows a trunk of Project Management and their role in facilitating as part of their job responsibility. Notice that concepts have been identified and some have the problem branch associated. This is as far as it goes, the purpose of this initial assessment is to understand current state, not to prescribe solutions. 
This is step one for your transformation.  If you want a more detailed example or have questions please feel free to contact me.  I believe the power of this tool is so valuable that it should not be reserved for highly paid consultants.  You should be using it daily to improve your job, department, company and life.  In the next post I will show you how to identify problems or areas for improvement and how to put structure around that second step. 

Defining a culture as a result of management systems by nature proves that you can not change a culture through a project.  Ok, now that we know this starts as a cultural transformation how do we start our journey.  There are many more cultural topics to discuss in this regard but for this post I want to focus on technical work which must be done. Standard lean advice calls first for stabilizing a process, followed by standardizing it, and then simplifying—or improving it. This advice also often applies to the sequence for implementing the elements of lean management.  Organizations that attempt to start their lean management implementation with leader standard work often find it difficult and confusing. Their difficulty makes sense when you think about the unstable state of many conventional operations before a lean conversion begins. Leaders spend their days firefighting and expediting, especially in areas closer to the floor in factory or office processes. It is tough to create a stable, standard routine under those circumstances. Organizations find they cannot make leader standard work effective because the leaders are constantly being pulled into a crisis or emergency. The leaders asked to try it say that leader standard work does not make sense, that it is not meaningful to them.

To begin with a metamorphosis of the enterprise you need to fully understand the current state of your enterprise.  In other words you need to take a step back, don't try to fix what you perceive as the most pressing issue but try to create a view of the Enterprise to show all your processes and workflows. Current state is plainly an agreed on visual representation for how the organization looks today.  It does not define solutions or place blame.  It simply is the baseline you will use to define and measure your organization transformation.  

The most common contention which commonly arises in enterprise transformation is what I call
climbing the mountain.  Intellectual Capital or IC (your employees) in most organizations have no problems identifying and defining all the inefficiencies within their organization.  Complications ensue though when they asked how to resolve those issues or how they came to be. Additionally much time is wasted arguing the merits of the issues when you're simply trying to identify your current state.  It's even more difficult when the IC are part of the problems which they are trying to identify.  No one likes to feel they are a liability to the organization and most IC rarely objectively realize they are.  Add on the bureaucracy of pet projects or emotional commitments and it's really no surprise the failure rate of these initiatives are so high (some estimates as high as 90% according to Bill Waddell

Second, when issues are identified, how do you objectively decide what to work on without adding the complexity of everyones flavor of the day?  The flavor of the day consists of what's current in your mind as your biggest issue (which is often the most recent) facing the organization.  This is rarely the largest non-value added component which needs the highest priority but is simply the one that pops in to your mind as the most recent (and likely the most important if we are being subjective).   A simple example of this is defined in The Goal written by Dr. Eliyahu M. Goldratt, a business consultant whose Theory of Constraints (TOC) explains that anything not a bottleneck should not get initial focus as it will not improve your process capacity.  This story though shows how easily the wrong item can be worked on and why it's so hard to identify the bottleneck or largets problem.  

While much of what I'm introducing was created in Lean cultures I don't propose calling yourself Lean when you successfully implement these steps (you still have more learning to actually "Be Lean"). Introducing Lean management and information systems requires discipline, time and reflection. Lean principles are even more difficult to embrace, yet they eventually come to influence behavior throughout the enterprise. Values and principles must have time to become internalized within the unique culture of each organization and this is simply a first step. Nonetheless, it is difficult to begin with values and principles alone, because they are intangible. This is where the principles of mind mapping will help (By far the best literature on Lean in IT is Lean IT by Steve Bell and Mike Orzen.  This is the most comprehensive book you will find if you're trying to start your lean journey in IT).  

Great, you want to begin your lean journey but where do you start?  I've told you all the problems you will face but haven't yet told you how to avoid them.  Where does one begin and who should be involved?  This blog post can not tackle that large of a concept but I suggest several books to read to get acquainted with some best practices (A great place to start is Making Strategy Work by Lawrence G. Hrebiniak).  At a very high level though your organization must tackle several components in order to launch.  

A mind map as defined by Wikipedia is "diagram used to visually outline information. A mind map is often created around a single word or text, placed in the center, to which associated ideas, words and concepts are added. Major categories radiate from a central node, and lesser categories are sub-branches of larger branches. Categories can represent wordsideas, tasks, or other items related to a central key word or idea."   Admittedly  the main goal of a mind map is for the facilitation of knowledge transfer from everyone in the session around one concept.  Granted it's not that easy, but the concept can range from the organization all the way down to a specific job role.  This simplified approach is successful primarily because simplifies what is  very difficult for people to state in a traditional strategic approach (Brain Storming, etc). 

Mind maps do a great job at minimizing the curse of knowledge by allowing a simplistic framework to state what  is often "obvious" .  Mapping can be done with software (I use Inspiration 9) or simply a white board or powerpoint.  The map starts with a center point concept or locus.  
This concept is the highest level of which your initiative focuses.  There can not be a higher level defined in the map.  If you were to start this map with your C level executives then you would have the name in the company in the center.  

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