A Double Standard Is No Standard At All!
If there's one thing guaranteed to make me mad in the workplace it's the failure of people to follow internal standards or guidelines for internal projects. In the IT world, this appears to be the normal state of affairs. I've lost count of the number of internal initiatives that I've been involved with which have no requirements (documented or not), no clear objectives, no stated business benefit,
Collaboration and Innovation: “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate” *
Show me a recent company mission statement or a set of corporate values and I'm willing to bet that it'll contain the words collaboration and innovation. It'll probably also contain the word agile and maybe lean as well but let's not get sidetracked in the first paragraph. Whilst I don’t dispute that innovation and collaboration are ‘good things’, when they appear in high-level mission
Why The Shareholder Should Not Be At The Top of the Food Chain
Earlier this week I read yet another article about the imminent demise of Yahoo's leadership team due to a letter from an activist shareholder group - who in this case owns less than 1% of Yahoo. OK, 1% of a multi billion dollar company may well be more than I'll ever earn in several lifetimes, but it's still a very small stake-holding compared to all the other investors. What struck me was how such
Think Global, Act Local - How To Sub-optimise Your Global Operation
I think it was sometime in the early 2000s when I first came across the expression "Think Global, Act Local". The phrase has been attributed to Patrick Geddes, a Scottish town planner and social activist, and originated way back in 1915. These days it is a rallying cry for global corporations, and it has appeared in nearly every leadership presentation I have seen over the last 10 years. At the time,
A Lean Excuse for Not Thinking
Recently a former colleague posted an article on a social media network entitled "The History and Simplicity of Lean Process Improvement". The author, Brian Hunt, suggests that elements of modern 'lean' can be traced back to ancient and mediaeval times. He then goes on to talk about modern Lean implementations and specifically Six Sigma techniques are often shoe-horned into an organisation with little
Meetings - Corporate Procrastination
Hands up if you've been in a useless meeting this week. It's Friday, so I'm guessing most people reading this have probably been in several useless meetings by now. If you're very lucky your useless meetings may have been interspersed with some useful activities some which involve people other than yourself but would you call them meetings? I could write a few paragraphs about how you could make
You Don't Know What You've Got 'Till It's Gone
"Don't it always seem to go That you don't know what you've got Till it's gone " are lines from the 1970 Joni Mitchell song "Big Yellow Taxi" which was an early reflection of environmental blots on the landscape. Those lines work on so many levels from reminiscing about personal relationships, missed opportunities and regrets about leaving situations or places. But it struck me that they
I Am Not A Resource...I Am A Person
The most frequently repeated quote from the 1960's cult TV series, The Prisoner, is probably "I am not a number, I am a free man". Much has changed since then, and global corporations now rule the world. I'm repeatedly find myself getting drawn in to discussions resonating around a similar theme in this brave new world where managers insist on calling me a resource. I am not a resource, I am a person! Some
Leadership - A Duty of Consistency and Common Sense
I read a newspaper article today about a Japanese academic, an expert on China, who works at my old alma mater, the University of Nottingham. She has been forced to leave the UK because she has failed to meet the home office requirement of living in the UK for more than 185 days a year. She was unable to meet that commitment because she had to travel for her work and spent 270 days in China in 2010
Teams In the Workplace – Flogging a Dead Metaphor?
You could probably wallpaper a small city with the amount of material that has been written about Teams in the Workplace. That search term alone provides 112,000,000 items to browse through. It seems that nearly every day a new article pops up on LinkedIn or HBR or some other illustrious business compendium about how to better manage your teams, the dangers of underperforming teams, how
Can Outsourcing Quality Really Be A Good Thing?
After twenty two years climbing corporate ladders I decided to go freelance back in 2006. On several occasions I have taken on a contract as a Project Quality Manager. Generally, this means working as a team member of one or more projects, helping the team, and mostly the project manager, to make sure they are following corporate standards, using good practice and generally steering them in the right
Location, Location, Location...
I first read Peopleware by Tom De Marco and Timothy Lister not long after it was first published in 1987. I was still cutting code for a living, learning my trade (as I hope I continue to do so some 30 years later) and had little enthusiasm for going into management which appeared to do nothing except stifle my creativity. The whole of the second section of the book is about The Office Environment.
The Illusion of Agile - Are You Truly Agile?
Do you work in a truly agile organisation or is it just your department, or maybe only your immediate project that is displaying agile tendencies? If you answer with either of the latter two options then you are probably nowhere near as agile as you think you are and you are almost certainly nowhere near as agile as you would like to be or have the potential to be. I first got involved with agile
Trying to "Implement" Lean? - Think Again!
This weekend, I spent a couple of hours reading Henrik Kniberg’s book “Lean from the Trenches - Managing Large Scale Projects with Kanban”. The book relates the author’s experience using Kanban on a large project for the Swedish national police authority. I always enjoy these kinds of true life experiences, but this one had some personal resonance for me because of my experience with Lean and
7 Deadly Sins of Process Improvement/Change - #7 Extravagance
My final deadliest sin is that of extravagance. Extravagance is not confined to process improvement, but for many years was something of a feature of the IT industry. Extravagance has two meanings, and both are relevant in this post. The first definition refers to the lack of restraint in spending money or use of resources. The second refers to the excessive use of elaborateness in style, speech or
7 Deadly Sins of Process Improvement/Change - #6 Ignorance
My penultimate deadly sin is that of Ignorance. Ignorance is purely and simply a lack of knowledge, information or understanding. Ignorance itself is not the deadly sin as clearly we are all ignorant about certain (most?) subjects. The sin is in failing to do something about rectifying your own or other's ignorance when it matters, or in pretending that you know about matters which, in reality, you
Fanning the Flame Wars - Scrum vs Kanban?
Thirty years ago the longest running war in IT broke out and it's still going on today - Apple vs PC. Since then a multitude of other wars have broken out, many of which are also still being fought out today, mainly across the pages of the internet. These include (but there are countless more) : BASIC vs Pascal iOS vs Android OS X vs Windows Rumbaugh vs Jacobsen Agile vs Waterfall PMI vs Prince 2 Apple
Redundancy - the Ultimate People Process
In 2006 I was made redundant for the first (and last) time. At the time I was devastated, not least because I was completely blindsided by the decision. Just a few weeks previously I had my annual performance review at which I "Far exceeded expectations", received a 5% bonus and a 10% pay rise. At that time bonuses were far rarer than rocking horse droppings and pay increases were 0% to 1.5%
7 Deadly Sins of Process Improvement/Change - #5 Carelessness
At number five on my list of deadly sins we have Carelessness, where a person or group fails to give enough attention to avoiding errors and mistakes. I deliberately chose to include carelessness in addition to ineptitude because I’d argue that people with good knowledge and understanding who have done their planning and preparation can still be careless and make clumsy and costly errors as a result.
7 Deadly Sins of Process Improvement/Change - #4 Impatience
Whilst sin number two in my list is Inertia, sin number four is almost the opposite; Impatience, the state of restless eagerness. Typically this is a management problem but it can also stem from within a change team, or individuals caught up in the excitement of a change, or even in desperation for a change to the existing status quo. I have seen many change programmes wound down or cancelled
7 Deadly Sins of Process Improvement/Change - #3 Ineptitude
People make mistakes. Apparently it’s what makes us human, although it most certainly isn’t a purely human trait, as mistakes take place in the animal world every time a predator catches its prey. What I mean by ineptitude in this context is either actively making clumsy, silly, avoidable mistakes, or forcing others to do so through your actions. There’s quite a close tie-in to our opening sin
Trials and Tribulations of an External Process Management Consultant
I've spent the last five years outsourcing my process and change management skills and experience. Most aspects of being freelance suit me perfectly well, and I doubt that I'd ever go back to being permanent staff. I used to say that if the perfect job came up I'd consider it - but I've had several perfect jobs as both a permie and as a contractor, and they've generally turned out to be anything but
A Short Rant About Rogue CMMI Consultants
If you've been waiting patiently for the next part of my seven deadly sins posts, I do apologize. The post has been written for some time, but the subject matter could have been misconstrued by the folk I was under contract with and I didn't want to get caught up in a needless conflict. That contract is now over so I will post in due course when I feel that the time is right. If I'm brave enough,
7 Deadly Sins of Process Improvement/Change - #2 Inertia
Continuing on the theme of 7 Deadly Sin of Process Improvement and Change, my second deadly sin is Inertia, the tendency to do nothing or to remain unchanged. Inertia may be caused by a number of things including fear, ignorance, lack of confidence, uncertainty but it has the same effects regardless of the cause. At best, inertia will lead to nothing happening at all - a kind of nothing ventured, nothing
7 Deadly Sins of Process Improvement/Change - #1 Arrogance
Just over three years ago I posted an article on this blog called 7 Deadly Sins of Process Improvement (or Change Management). It recently dawned on me that, although I said I would expand on the 'sins' I mentioned in the original post, I never got around to it, so I'm now trying to make amends for that oversight! The first of my deadly sins is arrogance. Arrogance is defined as “having or revealing
A Tough Nut to Crack
A week or so ago I found a link to an article entitled "7 Reasons you shouldn't touch systems thinking" on the thinkpurpose blog. The link was posted by Bob Marshall (@flowchainsensei) on Twitter, and I tweeted back to him that I found the item "profoundly disturbing". His response was "Excellent! Care to elaborate?", to which I answered that I couldn't put my reasons into a 140 character tweet and
Good Practices, Recommended Practices but never Best Practice
If you've read previous posts on this blog, or if you follow me on Twitter, you may be aware that one of my current bug bears is the wilful misuse of the term "Best Practice". I have no idea where this concept originated, but it can't have been anywhere that believed in Continuous Improvement (or in any improvement for that matter!). My first hands-on experience of "Best Practice" was with the
Acting Under Pressure - Free Thinking or Conditioning
I've been having some pretty restless nights since I came back from Switzerland and last night was no exception. I woke up at 04:45 clutching at some snippets of a rather bizarre dream, but sadly wasn't conscious enough to jot them down. The gist of it was that I was in a war zone with some close friends from both work and personal life and I was questioning some of the decisions that were being taken,
When Measurement Programmes go Viral...
I think it’s a fair comment to say that only a foolish manager or leader would try and run an organisation, department or even a project based on subjective judgment alone. Gut feelings and intuition should not be ignored but they need to be backed up and supported by facts and often the best facts are quantitative. I have come across plenty of managers who follow the ostrich tendency and genuinely