Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Project Management vs Quality – How to Stop Making Each Other Crazy!

Karen Creditor
For quality professionals, interacting with project managers is undoubtedly the most frustrating part of their job. It’s not that project managers are bad people. In fact, I must confess that I am a project manager myself, and I have sometimes done my best work while making my quality colleagues crazy. For that I am truly sorry. Well, mostly sorry.

Why are project managers so frustrating to quality professionals? I believe it’s because of the differences in world view. Concepts like value, frameworks, goals, and speed, along with the inherent differences in personality types drawn to each profession, make us view each other from slightly different perspectives. At our worst, we tend to look at each other like we live on different planets.

Here’s an example I share with my students to illustrate the differences. Once upon a time I managed a team of project managers in a technology company. I had just hung up the phone from a planning call for the upcoming ISO audit when one of my most experienced project managers burst into my office.

“I just came out of my preliminary prep audit,” he said. “They’ve docked me for two findings! We’ve got to fix them before the real outside audit or my project will be the reason we can’t recertify!” As he slumped into the nearest chair, the internal quality auditor, obviously equally agitated, raced up to my door, coming to an abrupt halt when she saw the project manager sitting in my visitor chair.

“Did he tell you how he is going to make us fail the audit?” she asked, pointing at the project manager.

“It’s not my fault!” said the project manager. “It’s your crazy interpretation of the rules!”

As you can imagine, some animated and emotional conversation ensued. Finally I asked:
“So what you’re saying is that the problem is that the software developers have gone ahead and written and deployed some code before going through all the gates required by our product development process? And those gates involve writing down detailed requirements before a line of code is written? Have I understood correctly that this is the problem?” Both the project manager and the internal auditor nodded emphatically.

“Yes, they can’t be allowed to do that,” said the auditor. “You must tell the developers that they must write detailed requirements, and then get those requirements signed off by the appropriate management, and only then can the development move forward.”

“But that’s ridiculous,” I said. “We’re a small innovative company. Even if we wanted to write detailed requirements we don’t have either the staff or the time to do it. And why would we ask developers to write requirements when that isn’t even close to what they do best? We need them to write code.” As the implications became clear, I became more frustrated. “Over my dead body are the project managers going to ask the developers to slow down their innovation to write a bunch of so-called “quality” paperwork!”
Fast forward five or six years, and the quality auditor and I now laugh about this ugly meeting. While painful, it was the catalyst for us to understand and appreciate the sources of our frustration, and to change the way we work together for our common goals. If you are finding yourself in a similarly confrontational and frustrating situation, here are a few perspectives to improve the relationship between quality and project management:

1. Value is how you incent people to behave.
Project managers are rewarded when they deliver products on time and on budget with full functionality. Quality professionals are rewarded when defects are reduced and when certifications are maintained. In the worst scenarios, project managers focus on timelines, on budgets, and on delivery, without integrating quality metrics into the concept of full functionality. Similarly, quality professionals who focus on a rigid interpretation of a standard, without considering corporate time or budget constraints, are missing out on opportunities to bring real value to the process. In the best scenarios, quality professionals and project managers work together to draw connections among quality standards, well-written corporate processes, zero defects, and rapid development within tight budgets.

In practice, this means project managers must involve quality professionals in the initial project planning meetings, making use of their expertise in designing and monitoring metrics and processes, and ensuring that the entire product development team understands that the quality team has just as much “skin-in-the-game” as any other development role. For quality professionals, this means you can’t simply point out failures in process or product after the fact; you must be willing to be integrally involved in designing those processes and products to ensure quality is built in from the start. Yes, this is more work. Yes, this is sometimes very hard to do. However, it’s one of the best ways I know to reduce that working frustration between the two disciplines.

2. Personality and viewpoint differences build strength.
I’m willing to bet if you asked a room full of project managers and quality professionals, most of the quality professionals would admit to colouring inside the lines in elementary school art class, and a fair number of the project managers would admit to the opposite. Each of the professions attracts some key personality traits. Some of these traits are similar; both professions naturally prefer order over chaos. Some of these traits, however, are quite different, and yet all viewpoints are required for success.

For example, the best project managers I know demonstrate an understanding of how to just barely colour inside the lines. This means the ability to see and understand the rules, the ability to create and follow a detailed project schedule, while simultaneously using charm and creativity to convince people to get things done. It’s a balancing act that requires the willingness to break the rules, and the knowledge of when it is safe and best to do so. On the other hand, the best quality professionals I know combine an understanding of why the best results require adherence to the standards, along with the ability to share that knowledge in a way that’s meaningful to others. So while the best project managers inherently push the limits of a framework, the best quality professionals strengthen those limits. Recognize and encourage the value of these different views, and frustration will decrease.

Read more on our blog.

Karen Creditor has practical experience as a project management executive who has lead project management offices and successfully managed million dollar technical programs for enterprise level companies, including Monsanto, Peabody Energy, Research in Motion, and Marsh Company.

Karen also is an inspiring teacher, passionate about applying new learning to achieve business and personal success. She has taught in the Applied Science and Engineering Programs at Washington University in St. Louis and Conestoga College Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning in the Department of Business.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Charming the Customer: Persona Based Testing

Software testers are increasingly being challenged to provide better test coverage for the applications they test. Persona Based Testing (PBT) puts testers in the customer’s shoes like never before to enhance testing coverage with the ultimate goal of not only meeting customer expectations, but exceeding them.

One of the main objectives of software testers is to ensure that the software they are testing meets the specified requirements and maintains a certain level of quality. What would happen if the software that is delivered to the customer not only meets the requirements but instead, exceeds them?

Undoubtedly, you would have a very happy and repeat customer. Software testers are often required to put themselves in the customer’s place to ensure that the software is providing what the customer requires. This can be challenging when teams are basing their tests solely on written requirements (that in most cases may not fully capture the customer experience or how they will utilize the software).

Persona Based Testing (PBT) is a software testing technique that puts the tester front and center in the customer’s frame of mind to determine the use cases that customers will execute in a day-to-day setting. PBT simulates various persona(s) that would use the software and, as such, helps develop more comprehensive test cases. In addition to reviewing the actual requirements for a software project, PBT also takes into account how the customer will be using the software in their own environment. For example, a requirement for a software application may be:
“The developed software must be able to be installed on a … platform”

Testers may meet this requirement by developing a set of test cases that will test installing the software and verifying if the installation worked or not. But this alone would not allow us to understand how we can exceed the customer’s expectations One solution is to find out from other internal, customer facing groups (such as Tech Support, Beta, Product Management, etc…) how their IT Administrator (the Persona) will perform the installation:

    Will the IT Administrator install on a virtual machine?
    Will the IT Administrator install the database required for this installation on the same server?
    Will the IT Administrator install the software on a drive other than C:\ drive?

By putting oneself in the place of the Persona (in this case, the IT Administrator), one can see how easy it is to come up with several use cases in a matter of minutes. Going further with this example, one can expand on the number of Personas that can be applied – for example, once the software is installed by the IT Administrator, who would then use it and in what capacity? Would it be Accountants? Engineers? This iterative process would continue until the list of reasonable Personas has been completely defined.
PBT is a very powerful testing technique that software testing teams can employ very easily to not only meet the requirements set out for them, but to exceed them and to foster increased communication between teams and within the testing team. By brainstorming on various personas that will use your software, you will not only enhance the product itself but also the dynamics of your testing team by making them an integral part of the software delivery cycle.
  •     Will the IT Administrator install on a virtual machine?
  •     Will the IT Administrator install the database required for this installation on the same server?
  •     Will the IT Administrator install the software on a drive other than C:\ drive?
  •     Etc...

By putting oneself in the place of the Persona (in this case, the IT Administrator), one can see how easy it is to come up with several use cases in a matter of minutes. Going further with this example, one can expand on the number of Personas that can be applied – for example, once the software is installed by the IT Administrator, who would then use it and in what capacity? Would it be Accountants? Engineers? This iterative process would continue until the list of reasonable Personas has been completely defined.


PBT is a very powerful testing technique that software testing teams can employ very easily to not only meet the requirements set out for them, but to exceed them and to foster increased communication between teams and within the testing team. By brainstorming on various personas that will use your software, you will not only enhance the product itself but also the dynamics of your testing team by making them an integral part of the software delivery cycle.

About the author

Baljeet Bilkhu has a wide range of experience as a software test lead and test manager. Baljeet’s career includes more than sixteen years in information technology with a focus on testing, compliance, reporting and quality management.

Baljeet is also a co-inventor of a patent related to automated testing (US Patent 7433804) and patent publication US 2007/0162548A1. More.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

'Make Lean Happen' Webinar on November 14th 2012

The theme of World Standards Day 2012 is, "Less waste, better results – Standards increase efficiency". IEC, ISO and ITU emphasize that one of the key issues that organizations are facing in today’s business environment is the continuously increasing pressure “to achieve better results with less waste."

At CBG Inc. we are celebrating World Standards Day this year by offering you a gift – a free live online webinar of “Make Lean Happen” presented by Hemant Gham who is one of the leading experts in North America on Wasteless Lean processes and systems. Mr. Gham will explain key features of Lean transformation, answer your questions, and help you to decide what is right for you. Register now!

Note: World Standards Day is celebrated internationally every year on 14 October to honor the efforts of experts who develop standards within the International Electro-technical Commission (IEC), International Organization for Standardization (ISO), and International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

Friday, August 31, 2012

Rio+20: A Tale of Two Conferences

Later this decade, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil will host the two largest sporting events in the world, the World Cup and the Olympics. This year the city was the venue of another event of major international proportions but instead of sports the focus was sustainability. The Rio +20 event was arguably the largest single event related to sustainable development. This UN Conference gathered delegations from 188 member states, including heads of state of over 130 countries. There were also over 40,000 credential passes issued for the massive event.

Some of the conference results were also record breaking.
There were over 700 voluntary commitments by governments, businesses, NGOs, and other institutions reaching a total of over $500 billion. This included a pledge of $175 billion by eight multilateral development banks to support sustainable transport in developing countries.

The predominant conclusion of the Rio+20 event was a document approved by 193 countries entitled “The Future We Want.” The key points of this international compromise included the following:
  •      Launching a process to establish sustainable development goals
  •      Detailing how the green economy can be used as a tool to achieve sustainable development
  •      Strengthening the UN Environment Programme and establishing a new forum for sustainable development
  •      Promoting corporate sustainability reporting measures
  •      Taking steps to go beyond GDP to assess the well-being of a country
  •      Developing a strategy for sustainable development financing
  •      Adopting a framework for tackling sustainable consumption and production
  •      Focusing on improving gender equality
  •      Stressing the need to engage civil society and incorporate science into policy
  •      Recognizing the importance of voluntary commitments on sustainable development
These results appear impressive and are certainly a step in the right direction. But those who have studied sustainability understand that planning and strategy are only a small fraction of the total equation. Implementation is the lifeblood of a successful sustainability initiative and this key element was inadequately addressed.

The key to a viable implementation plan is specific and measurable action items and this was not produced by this event or the “The Future We Want” document. Although the commitments are remarkable, little detail was provided in terms of how these commitments will be applied, the expected timetable, or whether the financial commitments would be grants or loans. There is promise, however, that the event created the appropriate momentum that will allow the details to be worked out in the months and years to come.

Yet those who were not present in Rio in June may have failed to notice that Rio+20 was in fact two events. There was the much publicized UN conference that gathered diplomats and produced the open-ended “The Future We Want” document. But there were also a series of conferences, meetings, and workshops that gathered various actors in the world of sustainability including NGOs and businesses focused on social responsibility. Although less impressive on their own, the totality of these various “micro” events likely produced more implementable activities than the “macro” event of the official UN conference.

The conclusion of Rio+20 may be that coordinated government action may in fact be less effective than a collection of activities by smaller non-governmental players. Achieving consensus within a single nation is difficult in itself, thus making agreement on detailed actionable steps between hundreds of governments next to impossible. But implementable initiatives are a plausible outcome of interactions of various businesses and other non-governmental institutions. The Rio+20 Conference therefore reiterates the importance of all businesses and organizations understanding sustainability and how they can contribute to its improvement.

Steve Rubens has a background in business strategy and consulting. He began his career at KPMG with a focus on strategic planning for international transactions. Steve has gained his experience in sustainability consulting through work for a European Fair Trade and in teaching sustainability business strategy at UCLA Extension.
Steve holds a JD University of California, Hastings College of the Law and an MBA from University of Southern California - Marshall School of Business.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Sustainable Events with ISO 20121

As our world becomes smaller we need to constantly rethink the social and environmental impact of our actions on personal, community and business levels.

Modern technology wired us together – but nothing will replace the face to face meetings. It can be a social gathering or a team building event, Olympics or a scouts outing.

In June 2012 ISO published a new standard that provides practical tools for sustainable managing of events of all types and sizes.

The first international event that proudly followed the ISO 20121 guidelines was London 2012 Olympics.  

The standard is beneficial to a variety of actors and parties involved in event organization, planning and execution. It provides guidelines on how to cut costs and use resources efficiently via monitoring and measuring.  

However, ISO 20121 is NOT a checklist and is difficult to understand. If you’re interested in learning more about sustainability please contact us at http://c-bg.com/company/contactus.aspx.

Anna Banin
VP of Training
Centauri Business Group

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Enterprise Lean Transformation - the Change is Never Over

The Change Is Never Over 
For any organization leading a change or transformation program such as Lean, work is never over. This is similar to working continuously to achieve your most ambitious and desired personal goals in life. Every arrival point of a change in the organization is a departing point. By this, I do not mean drifting away from the objectives set for the long-term. I mean departing from the old habits that stifle productivity, innovation, company growth, and employee morale to finally embrace change.

When employee morale is down, people are not quite willing to participate in the change movement. They tend to resist the change or move to other organizations. This causes an inevitable change in company culture that might have a negative impact on its growth. To minimize this negative impact, you must generate enough enthusiasm to create a belief in the company, particularly, in the employees that “the need for a change is greater than the resistance to change”. And you must relaunch the drive for change periodically to keep the momentum going forward as the company undergoes cycles of strategy, marketing, and organization and technology changes. But what is really essential for a successful change program or Lean transformation and how can we sustain the program throughout the existence of a company?

Changing a company in favor of Lean 
As you may know, implementing change is a significant challenge. A company needs: 
  1. a clear and compelling case regarding the need for change;
  2. leadership commitment;
  3. employee engagement;
  4. solutions that are offered with a clear understanding of the root cause and preventive measures;
  5. ability to weather internal or external ‘distractions’
  6. ability and capability to minimize the effect of cycles of strategy, marketing, organization and technology changes;
  7. linking the Lean activity to the strategy and a better understanding of the customer;
  8. linking the Lean metrics with financial measures;
  9. a solid communication plan; and
  10. finally, a training program that covers all of the above, including both the softer and harder elements necessary for successful Lean transformation  
For any company that has recently undertaken an enterprise-wide Lean transformation program, first, it is imperative that senior leaders in this company are aligned with each other and acknowledge that Lean helps achieve competitive advantage as it focuses on the bottom line. Second, commitment from senior leadership is critical to a successful deployment of Lean. Third, leadership must also review results and success stories from similar industries and acknowledge that process improvements driven by programs like Lean and Six Sigma have enhanced employee productivity in the past.

Accelerating the change  
Leadership is aware of the fact that as competitive pressures keep increasing, there is not only a need to change and transform the organization, but there is also a need to accelerate that change. This means that transforming an organization to adopt Lean is not enough. The adoption has to be accelerated to gain a competitive advantage. To succeed in this feat, the leadership must also be aware of the fundamental concepts of Change Acceleration Process or CAP. CAP provides a framework to understand the need for change, it combines technical strategy and organization or cultural strategy to deliver a change initiative that is focused on customer needs. CAP brings tools for acceptance to Lean methodology to achieve effectiveness in the change solution.

Making more people accountable, addressing the softer elements of change 
Accountability from key people in the organization is as important as the commitment necessary from senior leaders. Many change initiatives such as Lean have failed due to the fact that the entire responsibility for the initiative rested with far too few leaders and the number of people at every level who make committed contributions to organizational success was too small. A larger percentage of employees need to care deeply about the organization’s motive to change. These feelings of deep commitment and willingness to face challenges with acceptance and a positive attitude are synonymous with employee engagement. Employee engagement leads to more commitment, passion, and energy, which translates into high levels of effort during the change, persistent follow-up of the most difficult tasks, taking initiative and accepting change. Engaged employees can create and sustain Lean transformation, and the engaged employee is a valuable business asset. But these are softer elements necessary for change.

Addressing the harder elements of change 
Change program such as Lean Transformation can demand many improvement or change projects to be initiated within the organization. These projects cannot find their way up through a charter unless companies address harder elements, or the common denominators of change. A 225-company study conducted by Boston Consulting Group revealed a consistent correlation between the outcomes (success or failure) of change programs such as Lean and four hard factors: project duration or time between project reviews; integrity or the capabilities of project teams; the commitment of both senior executives and the staff most affected by the change; and the additional effort that employees must make to contribute to the change. So, an organization’s ultimate success in an Enterprise Lean transformation program not only relies on the senior leaders' understanding of CAP tools and addressing the softer elements of change, but also how it addresses harder elements of change and its understanding of how each employee connects himself with the Lean initiative.

Connecting employees to Lean initiative, assessing the Lean program 
One of the several ways to connect an employee to the Lean initiative is through a well-designed and implemented training program on Enterprise Lean Transformation. There are several executive workshops and numerous internal courses already being delivered by companies on Change Management. However, for a successful Enterprise Lean Transformation, the awareness of change or CAP among mass employees, level of education, and probability of success of the Lean program should be assessed. The Lean transformation journey should begin with an awareness and education of employees and senior executives. For this purpose, a more formal and effective training program or course should be designed and rolled out. This course should at a bare minimum include modules that cover topics 1-9 mentioned above. The course should also teach leaders how to measure and assess levels of change because unless you know how deep rooted the change in your organization is, you cannot take actions to guarantee its sustainability. Finally, the course should be modified or refined periodically as the company undergoes cycles of strategy, marketing, organization and technology changes.

Hence, change is never over since some activities associated with it must be constantly refined and relaunched. An organization with an Enterprise Lean transformation program should always seek new ways to sustain the change by introducing and implementing CAP, addressing softer and harder elements of change, continuously updating the training course, and performing timely change audits or assessments to gauge success of the change. Based on audit or assessment results, Change Champions and senior leaders should take immediate, proactive actions before the ‘transformation train' is derailed.

Here are some initial questions that might stimulate your thinking. Your answers can help companies shape and design the Lean transformation or change program. Your comments are most valuable. 
  • What is the compelling reasons you think would allow you to embrace change positively?
  • As a leader what would be your top priorities to transform the organization to accept change?
  • As an employee what would you expect from your leaders?
  • What will make a change initiative like Lean stick according to you?
  • How would you proactively address resistance to change?
  • How would you measure success of a Lean or change initiative? (Annual audits? Assessments?)
  • What should be the role of Lean transformation or change management training and awareness programs?
  • How should the training program be structured?
Hemant Gham is a Certified Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt and a Director/Owner of an Enterprise Lean Six Sigma Management Consulting company.

Hemant’s area of expertise includes a number of successfully deployed Lean Six Sigma programs for enterprise-level companies as well as the management of complex and cross-functional change projects in manufacturing, software, IT and telecommunication industries. Hemant has authored an Idea Management System that helps business leaders align and prioritize their mission critical projects and activities. Hemant has been an ASQ member since 2007. 

Monday, January 30, 2012

Three concepts that outline the future of auditing

Auditing Remotely 

Modern technologies have changed the way we communicate and collaborate with each other over the last five years (2007 - 2012) much more than it had done so over the previous twenty years (1987-2007) and even more than the previous 110 years (1877-1987). New ways to collaborate that became available over the last several years include: social networking, tele-presence, virtual group meetings, instant sharing of text, video and audio, as well as virtual content creation. New information technologies pushed the boundaries of what seemed to be impossible in the last century allowing real-time collaboration of people from remote locations. Companies that offer certification, registration, and consulting services increasingly prefer virtual sessions over in-person visits.  These technologies open a world of new possibilities for organizations but also introduce a number of challenges.
Risk-based Auditing

Risk-based audits have been established in different areas including accounting and finance for quite a long time. The concept of risk-based audits was introduced to the area of management system auditing by the standard ISO 19011:2011 Guidelines for Auditing Management Systems. The standard recognizes that organizations need to focus auditing efforts on matters of significance to the management system. Risk management process, as defined by the International Standard ISO 31000:2009 Risk management Risk management - Principles and Guidelines, includes such elements as risk evaluation and analysis. These principles can be incorporated into the auditing process and help prioritize conclusions and results based on strategic goals. The ISO 19011:2011 standard also suggests how the risk management approach can be adapted to the auditing process to evaluate the risk of the process not achieving its objectives and the risk to the potential of interfering with the audited activities and processes.

Handling Confidentiality

The complexity of maintaining confidentiality is constantly increasing with the development of new information technologies. What information should and should not be shared via emails and messages? What levels of information security are provided by different types of software applications for screen sharing and virtual sessions? How to ensure the security of information when large files are shared over the internet? What information security risks are assessed and controlled prior to the beginning of an audit or a consulting engagement?  Every new technology that becomes available raises a new set of security questions that should be addressed by both parties, auditors or consultants and their clients. ISO 19011:2011 states that “auditors should exercise discretion in the use and protection of information acquired in the course of their duties”. Since the information from the client is mostly acquired in an electronic form through the use of information technologies, it prompts auditors and consultants to become technically savvy with proper handling this information.

Please share your experiences and thoughts on the topics discussed.

Natalia Scriabina is Centauri Business Group, Inc. Vice President responsible for overseeing the portfolio of training courses and strategic partnerships.