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SPEG Conference - People and Culture

This is the final blog entry for this year’s SEPG Conference in Europe, albeit a few days later than intended. In my blog from 16th June, I suggested that there were two underlying themes to the conference, namely multi-model synergies and people and culture. So what about people and culture? Previous conferences have had their share of presentations on Change Management, People-CMM and other people and culture related issues. It seems to me that this year there was an new energy about these ideas even though they were not particularly highly represented. I wonder how many of the issues the global economy now finds itself in could have been avoided through better understanding and actual usage of these concepts. SEPG Europe 2009 itself was a victim of a failure of organisations to take on board people issues. The lack of attendees suggested cutbacks in training and staff development activities. Talking to past colleagues and associates in different parts of the world (and not just in the software industry) makes it evident that this is a reality not a hunch. Quality and process staff are being cut back in droves, contract positions have all but disappeared of the radar. The false economy of mass redundancies leaves us with decimated work forces and organisations that will struggle when the market finally begins to turn round. The investment in people cannot be realised once they have gone - that money is also gone, a double whammy when one considers the cost of redundancy to the bottom line. Dr Paul Nielsen, Director and CEO of the SEI said in his keynote that the SEI was going to run a People-CMM programme in addition to their other improvement programmes. This struck me as one of the most thought provoking comments of the week. If an organisation truly values its staff, surely this is an area where they should be investing, regardless of the type of industry, product or service being provided. How many organisations currently disembowelling their workforce have a value statement that “People are our greatest asset” or something similar? An enterprise that embraces staff improvement programmes such as People-CMM are living their value statements about people. They recognise that holding on to their staff will help them ride out the tsunami of global recession, and will probably make them stronger and healthier. Since People-CMM applies to all levels of the organisation from the CEO downwards, all staff should understand and appreciate the need to retain the best, and look for ways to raise the bar for their other people. It would be naive to think that there will be no casualties, but these should really be kept to a minimum, and not viewed as pure cost cutting exercises. And surely the way to improve other parts of the organisation is to start with a mature and motivated workforce, who understand the need for change and have the understanding, ability, temperament, constitution, and enthusiasm to embrace that change? Maybe then, running a CMMI programme, or any other improvement initiative, would be a bit easier and really begin to realise the return on investment that we all believe they are capable of.
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