Chapter 3. Establishing Your Process Program

ISO 9001:2000, THE CAPABILITY MATURITY MODEL INTEGRATION, AND SIX SIGMA ARE NOT REALLY process programs, though many people think of them in that way. The better description is to say they are frameworks you can use to create your process program. ISO, CMMI, and Six Sigma wrap a series of practices, areas of focus, and methods into an approach that can support definition, control, and improvement of your technology projects. They are a great foundation, taken alone or in combination with one another. But creating a process programa big one or a small oneis an effort that requires more than adopting a model or a standard. It requires customization. In fact, one could say it is an effort that relies on customization.

Successful process programs are typically ones that have been carefully tailored to the needs of an organization. They are based on the way the organization worksor knows how it should work. And they capitalize on what it is the organization does well. It may be tempting at times to introduce something "fresh" from the outside, something that may look to hold the promise of addressing many of the issues the IT shops deals with. That may help, but real success rarely lies in something outside the organization. A tool like Photoshop might help someone be a better artist, but it probably won't make them a good artist to begin with. It's the same with ISO 9001, CMMI, and Six Sigma. You can use these tools to make your process program as effective as it can be, but you'll need to set the right foundation in place. If you haven't even tailored your program to specialties of your shop, even the most promising of programs will rattle and roll.

In this chapter, I'll look at some tips and techniques you can use to help establish a process program in your organization, one that fits well with what your shop is and what it does.

I'll look at a series of recommendations that you can use to right-size a process program. Here's a brief up-front look at what I'll cover:

Building through executive sponsorship

Executive commitment is an essential ingredient to any process program. In fact, one could argue that it is the single most essential ingredient. Executive sponsorship will provide you with the charter, the authority, and the resources you need to shape your program and then roll it out into the organization. Without this commitment, a program can easily dissipate over time, or never take hold in the first place. So as you begin your process efforts, make sure you're able to count on executive support.

Capitalizing on your strengths

Chances are your IT shop is doing a lot of things very well already. You should want to identify those traits and incorporate them into your process program: take your proven practices and formalize them. This will position your program from the start to align with current habits, and so give it the best chance to take deep root in the organization.

Understanding what you'd like to do better

The new process elements you introduce into your shop will spring from this recommendation. Here you work with your people to understand what it is the organization would like to do better, what its pain points are, what business objectives might need to be better supported. Linking your processes to these needs is another crucial success element. When you can begin to show that your process program is directly addressing tangible business needs, you'll find that the organization will be willing to embrace it as a logical way to conduct business.

Focusing on targeted improvements

The idea here is to target improvement opportunities that will promote business success, but to do so in a way that is manageable. In other words, don't feel obligated to address every performance issue you and your shop can identify. Target what you want to initially tackle. It's OK to start small; it's probably preferable (at least early on) to start small. You can grow from there.

Borrowing from the industry

Study what the IT industry has learned and then adopt those elements that appear to be beneficial to your focus and that seem to fit your needs. Review the recommendations of ISO 9001, CMMI, and Six Sigma (and maybe even ITIL, CobiT, Theory of Constraints, or any of the other models available). There are many sources of best practices available. Chances are others have had to solve problems similar to the ones you are faced with. So look at what the industry has adopted, and incorporate those proven ideas that help move you toward your goals.

Building from the inside

When you begin to build your process program, make sure to build it from the inside. That is, get the people in your shop to help you create your processes, procedures, forms, templates, etc. If they have an active hand here, they will help you produce components that are usable by the culture, components that will reflect the way your people work. And by seeking their input, your people will feel a degree of ownership over the program they help create.

Building to grow

Build your process program with the flexibility it will need to grow over time and adapt to changes as your business evolves. To do this you will need to find the right balance between detail and control, between standardization and customization. Naturally this balance will depend on the needs of your shop. As a general rule, newer programs take best when they are built with less detail and more flexibility. More mature programs can move toward greater levels of granularity and control.

Training your people

Next to executive commitment, this may be the strongest success factor for any process program. The benefit of training should not be undervalued. It's one thing to create a process program; it's another to use it to its full potential. By training your people on the smooth use of the program, you'll bring them a long way toward adopting it for the long term. Make this an early consideration in your design efforts. Plan for the right level of training your people will need, plan for the types of training you can deliver, and then work to deliver it to the right people.

Providing support

Any organization that manages its activities around processes will need to provide ongoing support for its program. This can include a range of components: coaching for people just moving into the program; documentation, guidelines, and other program materials; and templates, forms, and checklists. In short, your organization should provide the type of support materials that your people will need to use the program on a daily and ongoing basis.

Patience, not perfection

Process management and process improvement require a commitment over time. The full benefits of your program will not be realized until the organization has had the chance to institutionalize the program across its culture. This will take time. And so the program's success should be measured in gradual improvements, as a trend line that is steadily moving in the direction you want. Patience is important here. Consistent, incremental progress will add up over time to make significant contributions to quality and performance across the organization.

I'll cover these 10 recommendations in more detail in the following sections, but first let's take a look at an industry-recognized general approach to establishing a process program.

Process Improvement Essentials
Process Improvement Essentials: CMMI, Six SIGMA, and ISO 9001
ISBN: 0596102178
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2006
Pages: 116

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