Forget Process; Focus on People

The following guest blog post has been authored by Peter Leeson, Q:PIT Ltd. Leeson shares his thoughts on why the focus should be on people, not necessarily process.

There are two reasons to do CMMI-style process improvements. The main reason should be to improve the quality of the products and services, however it appears that the most frequent reason is actually to get a maturity level, either for advertising purposes (or because a potential customer is demanding it), or under the misguided assumption that once they are level 3, they will produce quality products and services. The aim for a maturity level is short-term approach to a problem, which may be interesting from a commercial point of view, but will quickly lead to both disappointment from the customers and seriously impact the reputation of the model, which is seen as “not delivering as promised”. Somehow, we lost the understanding that the model is there to measure maturity rather than to mature an organization artificially.

The chase of a maturity level frequently leads to a checklist approach to “improvement”. This is sustained by the SCAMPI methodology’s recommendation that the team needs to focus on what is “reasonable” and not on the “goodness” of the artifacts. In fact, all the valuable information and recommendations that are found in the informative material of the model can be officially disregarded in order to just look at the minimum acceptable level. The result is that the pursuit of a maturity level leads to a loss of quality, and (worse) the creation of documents and products that do not have any value but are only there to please the lead appraiser.

If we want to actually achieve quality, we need to change our point of view and really focus on that which will produce the quality and accept that quality is not being created by the processes, and even less by the model used to measure them. Quality is being created, generated, produced by the people doing the work and the process is there only to support them. The model is there only to support the creation and control of the process, therefore is several levels removed from the creation of quality.

Over the past 35 years, Peter Leeson has worked in many organizations, teams, and groups and has found a common characteristic of every team that is both productive and creative. In his FP2 paper, he is pushing this concept of focusing on making sure that the people are able and eager to produce quality rather than quantity. The approach focuses on different levels of support required for team quality, and then compares this to three very different ways of measuring: the CMMI, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and Dr. Deming’s 14 points of management.

The paper will be presented in session room A on Thursday afternoon just after the afternoon break at SEPG Europe 2011, and it will be made publicly available after the presentation. I know it is late in the day and you will want to be heading back to put into practice everything you have learned this week, but I believe this approach may change the way you view things.

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