Snake Oil

By | May 31, 2007

It has been said that process improvement is a journey and not a destination. Often, organizations become caught up in the process of the day and are convinced it will become that illusive silver bullet. Organizations that become focused on the process can loose site of the customer. Process improvement is about looking inward to determine what works well and what does not work so well.

Improving capabilities is quite different than the adoption of some new methodology or tool. Adopting a methodology or tool has a defined end state. Capability development is an ongoing process of studying our ability to deliver software product, and:

  1. Identifying problems
  2. Defining a set improvements
  3. Implementing those improvements
  4. Assess the impact of improvements made
  5. Make adjustments if needed
  6. Start at step 1 and do it all over again

This becomes an ongoing process of continual process improvements. We all want to be the best at what we do, right? We want to satisfy our customer, right? Organizations that want to be the best and are focused on customer satisfaction must make a commitment to capability development. As noted in Newton’s first law of motion – Unless acted upon by a net external force, a body, at rest, will remain at rest and a body, in motion, will remain in motion. Capability development is that external force that doesn’t accept the current state if improvements can be made. Similarly, capability development must become the force that keeps capability improvement efforts in motion.

Change is hard and requires persistence to realize benefit over the long term – while building momentum with short term wins. This persistence reveals itself as we change behaviors and create an excitement around the improvements being made to the organization. This excitement for change is best accomplished when the capability improvements are driven by practioners of the organization that that do the work and gain direct benefit from the changes. Capability improvements are best driven up – not down throats.

Commenting on the adoption of standard methodologies, an adoption of a standardized development methodology must be driven by the desire to solve real problems. It is not about the process, it is about solving real business problems and satisfying our customers.

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