Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Love of Ad-Hoc

I was yet again exposed last week to an instance of an organization performing their tasks in an ad-hoc style. I see this seemingly in built preference to ad-hoc so often that it strikes me as remarkable. While there should be a consideration towards reduction of cost and efficiency and optimization, ad-hoc is not the path to effective cost cutting, efficiency or optimization. A lot of work is required for achieving these 3 characteristics and simply avoiding any effort at structuring the way things are performed is not beneficial in any way.

And yet, ad-hoc is so prevalent even today. From an ad-hoc style of gathering requirements to an ad hoc style of designing, developing and testing, the ad-hoc way seems quite ubiquitous. Why is this? I think that it really just boils down to laziness and inertia. Sure, there is some measure of ignorance and lack of awareness of the current best practices out there, but this, too, can be finally attributed to laziness. Perhaps the feeling of comfort that comes from leaving things alone is also a factor. “Don’t fix it if it isn’t broken” seems to be the mantra of safety. However, the problem with this is that your competition isn’t leaving well enough alone. The competition is marching forward and if you don’t you will be left in the dust.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Hoshin Kanri

After postings of a more philosophical nature, let us delve into the nuts and bolts of IT process improvement with Hoshin Kanri. In Japanese, “hoshin” means shining metal, compass, or pointing the direction and “kanri” means management or control. The name describes the alignment an organization towards accomplishing a goal through effective planning.

Hoshin Kanri links the high level executive goals and objectives to increasingly lower levels of management and activities until the lowest level activity is aligned to the organization’s overall objectives.

At the beginning of the Hoshin Planning process, top management sets the overall vision and the annual high-level policies and targets for the company. At each level moving downward, managers and employees participate in the definition—from the overall vision and their annual targets—of the strategy and detailed action plan they will use to attain their targets. They also define the measures that will be used to demonstrate that they have successfully achieved their targets. Then, targets, in turn are passed on to the next level down. Regular reviews take place to identify progress and problems, and to initiate corrective action.

The levels of activity from high to low are:

  • Corporate level objectives

  • Service level Objectives

  • Functional Objectives

  • Team Objectives

  • Specific Activities, Goals & Resources

The advantage of this type of setup is that not only is the organization aligned towards high level objective but it is also very well positioned to quickly make adjustments to change in strategy. That is, a higher degree of agility and ability to rapidly change will be introduced. A better setup of accountability will also exist with Hoshin Kanri.

Hoshin Kanri is another tactical advantage an organization can give itself. It is not an end-all or be-all but it can help optimize things further. The interested reader can find out more about this technique online.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Trust Factor

As I spend more and more time and effort promoting the implementation of best practices, it emerges, more and more that the first and most important step is trust. Trust in the person giving advice and recommendation, trust in the process methodologies and finally trust in themselves: that they can implement the best practices successfully.

Usually all three areas of trust are missing. This then requires the process of gaining trust from people and the organization. However, trust is something that has to be earned and typically earned over time. Consistent reliable, dependable performance over time is usually what builds trust. This can be done to achieve the trust required but can an organization afford the time required for this trust to fall in place? The time involved could easily be months, perhaps years. By this time, the competition could have implemented these strategies and best practices and moved far ahead in the race.

Therefore, it is necessary that organizations and people quickly gain trust in what is best for them. This, however, is something they must decide. And there we have the Catch-22. How do they decide what is right for them when they don’t trust it? The only way out of this quandary is awareness and education. Become more aware of the best practices out there and the ability to make the right choices will get a lot easier.

The conclusion is that a higher degree of awareness and knowledge is needed to have the right level of trust for the right technique. Those who do not improve continuously will pay the price for their lackadaisical attitude.