Monday, May 24, 2010

The Unwanted Stepchild

Speaking with a client last week, I was yet again made to realize the lack of emphasis placed on continual improvement at all levels within the organization. The roles in their organization were based on frantic attempts to make it through the day with essentially no emphasis on any sort of improvement initiatives. It would seem that improvement is considered the stepchild in most IT organizations. And yet this is the most effective long term strategy an organization can employ to get ahead of the competition.

Oh sure, there is a conceptual agreement that there should always be continual improvement. However, when the rubber hits the road, it all falls apart. Why is this?

Mostly, it’s a lack of commitment and follow-through at all levels within the organization. Lack of planning and not keeping up with changing techniques and methodologies is also to blame. Perhaps most telling of all is what I hear consistently that not all new methodologies are “good”. Or just because some governing body has released a new body of knowledge, it is not necessary to implement it. Perhaps so, but it is surely necessary to be aware of it and at least consider it. On this topic, I would like to emphasize that most reputable governing bodies (PMI, ASQ, QAI etc.) have very deeply field tested bodies of knowledge. These techniques and methodologies were created by academics and industry professionals and then utilized in the field numerous times before even being brought to the public. Most people are unaware that ITIL is over 21 years old. Things don’t stay around for 21 years in the IT industry unless there is something to them.

The fact of the matter is that there are a huge number of improvement tools, techniques and methodologies out there. But the desire to implement all this needs to be realized. Until then, continual improvement will remain an unwanted stepchild.


  1. Hello Vivek
    I am also a quality consultant and an anonymous reader (even though I am a follower) of your blogs. The area of continual improvement that you have touched in this post has been the point of debate for me with many of my colleagues. Every model/methodology is focused on this premise.Before implementation of a model; the consultant gives ROI, tangible and intangible benefits etc. However, after implementation the management might stick with the model for a few years and then go for the next fashionable model. So, why is that any model/methodology does not give the projected benefits? According to me, the answer lies well and truly with the Management Commitment. Like, you mentioned in your post; any new BOK is released after several field tests. So, there is no way one can question the model by itself. So, it all boils down to how it is implemented. Lots of time, the implementation will be kick started by a gala meeting with a formal commitment from top management. However, the sizzle fizzles off quickly. To be successful in implementation, one has to put in the hard yards initially and it is just not enough with a formal training. The new way of doing things has to be implemented at a grass root level and feedbacks taken seriously and implemented in quick turnaround. The second most important thing is Sustenance. Lots of time,Management loses patience in a methodology after one or two years of mediocre results. Firstly, there is a cultural change that is required for an out and out implementation. Secondly, if the improvement trend is not going as desired: then, it is a problem with the implementation rather than a problem with the methodology itself.

  2. Hello Unni,

    Yes it boils down to implementation to a large extent. Also as you mentioned, a lot depends on the company's culture. A place I worked at a few years ago had fellow workers that were absolutely against any sort of change and were simply interested in their own career preservation. Well the company ended up going bankrupt (not surprisingly).
    Management needs to address these issues before any gala party launch.