Archive for the ‘value’ Category

Short-Cut to CMMI: Lean First

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Want fast, easy CMMI ratings?  Even high maturity?

First, implement lean, Goldratt’s TOC, Deming’s ideas, Kanban, and other related concepts, then get busy with CMMI.

What you may not know is that lean is easier, faster, and generates better performance results sooner than CMMI.

Lean improves delivery issues sooner than process improvement alone.  Improved deliveries improves revenues, stabilizes cash flow, increases margin, makes customers happier and results in more sales.

In other words, lean means better flow and better flow means better business.

CMMI is great, but is often attempted as a first line of offense to issues it’s not meant to deal with.  CMMI is meant to improve flow, not define it, and, lean helps define flow.
(Yes, I know I said "theory of constraints" twice.)

Assuming there are unfulfilled orders in the sales pipeline, lack of revenue is due to lack of flow.  Typically, this is due more to what’s in the flow, how much is in it, and the clarity and cleanliness of how the operation’s flow is aligned.  Using CMMI to "fix" issues with flow is like using the Brownian motion of steeping tea to power a random-number generator.  It’s just too much too soon.  Process issues are themselves symptoms of flow issues.

Deal with the symptoms first.  Then, tackle the processes.

Two events to put on your radar:

Lean Software and Systems Conference: Boston, 13-18 May (Lean Camp & Lean Action Kitchen, Sunday, Conference Monday-Wednesday, and Tutorials Thursday & Friday).  I’m helping to organize and speaking at the conference, and running a tutorial on this topic on Thursday.

Kanban Change Agent Masterclass: Miami, 23-25 May.  I’ll be participating as a special guest to demonstrate how Kanban helps achieve CMMI ratings, including High Maturity.

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.

Doing Agile CMMI without “Doing” Agile or CMMI

Monday, November 8th, 2010

There’s an under-appreciated reality of what either agile or CMMI can accomplish for an organization.  In particular, it’s not as much about what either accomplishes for an organization as much as it is about what an organization does for itself that achieves agility and systemic improvement.

It seems to be a decades-old issue that many technology-oriented companies, and, it seems, especially software companies, struggle with organizing and managing operations towards excellence.  I can’t even begin to dig into any reasons why this is so, but there may be some truth to the stereotype about technology people not being good with business and/or people. ;-)

I’ve found something fascinating that is fairly consistent across many companies I’ve visited or discussed with colleagues.  What’s fascinating about it is not only the consistency across multiple fields, industries, verticals, and national boundaries, but that it reinforces a position I’ve taken since beginning my career.  That position is the afore-mentioned “under-appreciated reality”:

Aligning the organization with specific business goals and providing a supportive culture
leads to broad behaviors at all levels that result in high performance.

OK.  So, that may not seem earth-shattering.  But there’s a lot in this statement about agile and CMMI that too many organizations to “get”.  And, this is where all the anecdotal evidence from the many companies comes into play:

Organizations with a culture of excellence generate behaviors (including setting and pursuing specific business goals) that achieve agility and systemic improvement without specifically setting out to achieve either “agile” or “CMMI”.

Throughout my earlier career, I was routinely frustrated by “training” that provided me with specific tools and techniques for dealing with “many common” situations – pretty much all of which were cultural, interpersonal, and otherwise based on human behavior.  The cases, examples, and solutions all felt very canned and contrived.  Why?  Because, in effect, they were.  They were very specific to the context and would only solve issues in that context.  What the examples lacked – and by extension, the entire course – was fundamental tools with which to deal with situations that were not neatly boxed into the provided context.  In other words, these training courses provided practices. These practices work in explicit situations, but they fail to provide the basis upon which those practices were built.  Without such a basis, I and other consumers of this “training” could not address real situations that didn’t match the training’s canned scenarios.

“Doing” agile or CMMI by “doing” their respective practices results in exactly the same limited benefits.

Making agile or CMMI “about agile” or “about CMMI” accomplishes little value and lots of frustration.  These are only practices.  Practices are devoid of context.  A culture of excellence and an explicit business case to pursue improvements provide the necessary context.

We see this all the time.  For example, for decades in the West mathematics was taught in a way left many students wondering, “what will I do with this?”  (This may still be true in many places.)  It was/is taught without any context to how it can help them better analyze and understand their world.  As a result, Western students have historically been less interested in math, do less well in math tests, and are less inclined to study in fields heavily dependent on math.  All due to being taught math for math’s sake and not as a means to a beneficial end.

Medicine is also taught this way around the world.  Leading too many doctors to seeing patients as packages “symptoms” and “illnesses” rather than as people who need help.  Scientific exploration often gets caught up in the same quandary.  Exploration is the goal, if you’re looking for a specific answer, it’s research.  When you’re trying to create a specific solution it’s development.  Mixing-up “exploration” with R&D will frequently result in missing interesting findings in pursuit of narrow objectives.

In agile practices, what’s more important: doing Scrum or delivering value?  Pair programming, or reducing defects?  Maximizing code coverage in unit tests or testing the right parts of the product?  “Doing” Scrum, pairing, and automating unit tests are intended to deliver more product of high value, sooner.  Focusing on the practices and not what’s best for the customer are missing the point of these practices.  Same with CMMI.

What are the economics of your core operation?  Not just what your group costs to operate on a monthly basis, but what unit of value is produced for any given unit of time?  How do you know?  Why do you believe your data is reliable?  The ability to make decisions relies on data and when the data is unreliable, decisions, plans and anything else that relies on the data is questionable and risky.

It turns out (not surprisingly) that when a group focuses on what’s important AND has the economic data to reliably understand the behavior of their operation, it aligns their actions with the very same goals set-forth in both agile and CMMI.

Focusing on the right things in your operation will cause behaviors that achieve agility and “rate well” against CMMI.  Whether or not you’re even trying to “do” agile or CMMI.