Archive for the ‘Measurement and Analysis’ Category

Lean Software and System Conference

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

I’m speaking @ the Lean Software and Systems Conference 2011.

The program is amazing!

I highly encourage attendance.

There’s an entire day in cooperation with the SEI with 3 unique tracks on it including a track on CMMI and Multi-Modal Processes (which I’m chairing).

Take a look at my talk… it’s from my upcoming book: High Performance Operations.

Register quickly and make your hotel reservations! Block rooms are nearly gone!

Happy 2011!! Don’t let mediocrity be a “goal”!

Sunday, January 2nd, 2011

With many people and business executives making New Year’s resolutions, today’s topic is about goals and how setting the wrong goals can often undermine becoming high performance.

For example, a business *goal* of +/-10% budget/schedule? What’s wrong with this picture?  What’s it saying about an organization who makes a business *goal* out of being within 10% of their budget and schedule?

Does it give customers a warm fuzzy that a business knows what it’s doing when *their* *GOAL* is to come within 10% of what they said they’d do?  *THAT’S* supposed to make you feel good?

Shouldn’t goals be something to aspire to?  A challenge?  And, if getting within 10% of the budget or schedule is an aspiration or a challenge, that’s supposed to be *goodness*?

Such goals are nothing more than an aspiration to be mediocreAn admission that the organization actually has little confidence in their ability to deliver on commitments, to hit targets.

That’s one way to look at it.

Another is to say (what’s probably more accurate) that their estimates are a joke, and that when the “estimate” becomes the allocated budget, what they’re saying is that they’re praying the estimate won’t screw them.  Furthermore, it’s a likely reflection that they really don’t know their organization’s true capability in a “show me the data” kind of way.  They don’t have data on lead time, cycle time/takt time, touch time, productivity, throughput, defect/muda or other performance-revealing measures.

And so, without real data to instill confidence in capabilities, setting lame goals to hit targets is like many other things such organizations do: they go about business without a clear understanding of what they need to do or what it’s going to take to get the job done.  That way, when they don’t hit their targets they can just blame the innocent or find some other excuse for remaining mediocre.  After all, how exactly would such an organization expect or plan to hit their targets?  Come on!  Let’s be real.  They have no idea! 

Either way, making it a *goal* to do something we *expect* them to do is rather lame!

This year, don’t make lame resolutions, instead, come up with a strategy and a plan to to attain *confidence* in being able to hit specific SMART targets.  Then, grow that confidence and narrow the spread of the targets.

What to Measure?

Monday, March 10th, 2008

Of all the process areas, one ML2 PA stands out that causes much contortion, consternation, and non-value added (when performed poorly): Measurement and Analysis (MA).


Simple. People don’t realize how easy it can be, and if it proves not so easy, the real questions are then: why are you using CMMI for process improvement? why, in fact, do you want to improve your processes?

These questions become very uncomfortable for organizations whose only real reason for using CMMI is for their rating.

I’m a stickler for insisting that organizations actually want long-term value-added improvements to result from their use of CMMI. That’s code for not just the rating.

All the PAs in CMMI are to improve the development of products and services. That means that there is a beneficial contribution of the goals of every PA towards the improvement of processes that affect development of products and services. By inclusion, then, even Measurement and Analysis (MA) should be about things that affect your projects and products. In fact, the more proactive the measures and the analysis, the better. But, I’d settle for measures and analysis that simply indicate something of value about the organization’s process efforts… unfortunately, that seems to be the elusive piece.

Let’s start with a quick recap of what’s in MA:

Goal 1: Know what you want to measure, why you want to measure it, how you’ll collect, store and report the measures, how you will analyze what you collect, and what information and decisions these measures and analyses support.

Goal 2: According to Goal 1, go get the measures, analyze, store and report them and make appropriate decisions.

What’s so hard about these?

It seems people are scared witless over numbers. It all starts in Goal 1. Many folks, it seems, in their worry over finding any measures start using their imaginations instead of following the simple formula provided by the PA.

The formula goes something like this: "We need to know   (information need)   because we want to improve   (process activity)   to see improvements in   (information objective)   (or to the measurable extent      )."

In other words, start FIRST with the information your organization needs to fulfill information and process objectives. After identifying these needs and objectives, everything else should fall out nice and easy.

Here’s another tip: Ask yourselves the following question: You’re spending money, resources, time, etc., on processes, and process improvement, right?  What would you like to know about where your money is going?  What would you like to know about what you’re getting for it?

In fact, in every PA there’s a practice called GP2.8, whose short name is Monitor and Control the Process.  In many ways, this practice can break the measurement quandry and solve any organization’s MA needs.  If they can’t think of anything else to measure about their organization (utilization and bill-ability not being sufficient — for reasons to be discussed later), GP2.8 should make it easy.

Think of GP2.8 as asking the following question in each process area: What is going on this process area that when we measure it tells us something of value about our activities in this process area?

If you can’t answer that last question, then you must ask yourselves whether or not you’re performing the goals of the PA in a way that truly adds value.  Continued trouble with this question indicates that your process improvement effort may not be properly scoped… or worse… may have the wrong goals.

The truth of the matter is that CMMI is very useful for many things, but not everyone can easily identify a value-added need to improve in every process area of a particular maturity level.  Until a value-added improvement objective is identified for each process area, GP2.8 will prove challenging.

Of course, there’s more to GP2.8 than strictly measures of the PA activities, and more to MA than strictly PA measures.  GP2.8 can (and should) also look at the project’s plan for performing PA activities and compare the actual activities to those in the plan.  And, MA can (and should) also be about other [non-PA] measures important to the organization.  Though, until you can identify improvement objectives more substantial than "achieve MLx", both MA and GP2.8 — as well as much of CMMI — will prove lacking in value and outcomes.

So, why aren’t utilization and bill-ability valid MA measures?  Because if you were to try to go "fix" problems in utilization and/or bill-ability, which of your organization’s processes would you go fix?  Utilization and bill-ability are like a gauge at the very end of a large, complex machine.  If all you see is that one gauge in the green, and you have no insight into how well any other part of the machine is doing, what do you do when suddenly the gauge is yellow or red, let alone how can you prevent the one gauge from going yellow or red?

While there are several PAs whose practices support maintaining effective utilization and bill-ability, it takes a level of sophistication and detailed understanding of process interactions to know how to connect utilization and/or bill-ability to these practices.  More generally, there are many things an organization may measure and/or want to measure that CMMI does *not* easily support.  E.g., marketing effectiveness, billing/payment efficiency, employee satisfaction, and others.

MA should be seen as being part of the overall improvement activities of the organization’s processes, not just a process about measuring for measurements’ sakes.  Measuring for measurements’ sakes will definitely limit any organization’s ability to mature beyond ML2, and, is most definitely not anything even remotely associated with being lean or agile.