Engineering Factories, manufacturing plants had always fascinated me since childhood. In my childhood, I had made several visits to the thermal power plant where my father works. The plant is open to families of people who are related to plant on the festival of Dushehara every year. I am still having very fond memories of those days. In my engineering years, I also had visited the Bosch plant which is near to our place.
Both plants are strikingly similar in many respects. They had some sort of control rooms through which they manages manufacturing process or power generation turbines. There were huge charts and flowcharts with Pressure, temperature instructions are noted. Off course they are complex and go beyond this li’l boy’s imagination…but my father still try to explain me what it means..how water is boiled and coal-ash is carried through big pipes on that charts…for me I just think how could these pipelines cross each other in such a good manner! ) New Employees while on training refers to those charts and afterwards they get used to it. Seasoned employees don’t have to look at them, but these old fellows also think that these charts are useful for them when plant management had to do some maintenance or install some new machinery.
In IT, in our company, we too make kind of flowcharts which are I think a little less complex than those found in engineering factories/plants. These flowcharts are treated as process definitions.People are expected to follow these while doing their day to day work to gain efficiency.
In general, we still find some trouble with them. They still are not our part of day to day life. As a process leader and most importantly as a constant observer and improver when I enquire about people involved in projects or with friends from other organizations, I found that they know that processes exists but on an average, organizations had failed to gain from processes than management’s expectations.
Organizations had constantly failed to make an impact on the way of working with their people;more on people who are smart or intelligent than a average employee. There are several reasons and other factors are related with it and I am not going to discuss the reasons here rather we will discuss about what can be done as a part of the solution.
I think though, Flowcharts serve as single reference point. Merely process flowcharts will not serve the purpose of committing to the following of process in each and every single day.[This is what we expected when we say "Institutionalization of process"].
MAKE PROCESSES VERY VISIBLE TO EMPLOYEES EVERY SINGLE DAY.THEY MUST SEE THEM EVERYDAY.
This may be keep these process definitions/flowcharts at the entrance of companies’ labs or notice boards or even put it as wallpapers of individual member’s desktops or at the front of individual employee.
Second most important thing where most of the organizations fail is conveying the importance of processes to their employees.
They just know since their successive bosses had made compulsion so they need to follow orders.
COMPULSION IS PROBLEMATIC WAY, since it gives false illusion that problem is solved or things are in order as per required.
People, should be shown advantages of following processes subtly, not just stating that “if you follow the process you will get the advantage.”
QA team can play a bigger role in all this. They should not act as a police [Now they ask WHY this document is not there? Rather they could have said with project example that look this document/practice of keeping the document had saved the team this issues or this rework etc.] ,but as a mentor, as a coach.
Saying that they [project teams] do not follow is not the way.
“You cannot change the whole world. Easier way is you have to change yourself.”
The Point here, I want to make is “Know your customers well”. See, project team members are organization’s internal customer. They must see their benefits into whatever you tell them to do.
People should get to know and understand the thought process that had gone behind creating the process definitions.
Most current process making mechanisms capture the end-results and not the enjoyable journey!
So from my stand point, we should add the intent of making such end result to process documents. [This can be very simple, just ask "Why?" at each process step and verify entire process. This way you can validate the process.]
If your process could satisfactorily answer the questions then chances are more for, it will be followed by the people.
1. Why my project team members should follow the ‘xyz’ process?
[I am not expecting the answers like its good to follow,you will get advantages. It should be concrete like you can save 40 man-hours by this. Or something like you will not face client saying that you need to do this requirement change NOW.I know this is kind of steep demand but if you want to buy your team members,its a must have.]
2. How could project get the benefits of it?
3. Process has overheads. How you have designed your process so that it had minimum documents/overheads.
[Answers could be something like...You create class diagram with visual studio. The same solution can be shown as design document. No need to create a separate document. Since project team always can create class diagrams with visual studio less than a minute.]
This is very much contradiction to current way of committing to process. People who are doing QA or involved in SEPG sends mail to respective stakeholders/project team members. [Sending a mail is NOT A COMMUNICATION..Sometimes old ways still had much more effect than e-way.Go and talk to your customers..as simple as that or participate in water cooler talks].Then we conduct training [Reading flowchart boxes is not training?]
IMHO, problem is importance and advantage is not communicated to team members and there everything start falling against the management expectation.