Archive for June, 2013


Women, parity, equality and political correctness

June 27, 2013

After a recent presentation at a conference in Romania on how projects needed to be managed using the whole brain, and explaining how the different elements need to interact, I was asked whether this could mean that there was a particular place for women in project management and engineering.

I have frequently been surprised at the lack of women in engineering and management positions in the Western world. When working in China or central Europe, I find a better level of parity: at the Romanian conference, focused on software engineering, approximately 40% of the participants were women – in more Western countries, that would be amazing. In the UK, I keep on hearing people complaining about the need for more women in politics, in management positions and even on bank-notes. The argument given is usually to state that half the population is female and therefore should be represented, which I find an extremely stupid argument; should we have a better representation of Asian people on British bank notes, what about redheads or homosexuals?

There are better reasons for expecting parity; but that requires acknowledging the fact that men and women are not equal: they are complementary (meaning they are equal, not to be confused with “complimentary” which would mean they are to be congratulated).

I want to give here some averages. These are based on a variety of researches and peer-reviewed publications. I do not claim that these statements are true for every man or every woman, only that we find that there is a tendency to go to one side or the other of the median line when looking at large numbers of men and women.

The testosterone in which the male brain is bathed during its formative years has a destructive effect on certain aspects of the brain, particularly the bridges between the left and right sides. It also promotes growth, which, as men are generally larger than women, means that a man’s brain is somewhat larger than a woman’s brain. In various tests, it has been seen that the woman’s brain is more active, and more active in every part of the brain than the man’s; a man’s brain is more often at rest.

While a man may have better spacial awareness, the activity in a woman’s brain tends to give her a better understanding of her environment, the impact and influence on people, the atmosphere, the feelings of people. This allows a woman to be better at planning and organizing things; while the man, more focused on activity, would be better at doing a job that requires continued concentration.
When faced with danger or provocation, the man’s amygdala tends to provoke a “fight or flight” reaction, while the woman’s will provoke a “tend and befriend” reaction. A wounded man will want to hide in solitude until he feels better; a wounded woman will want to talk, nurture, care.

The result of this, in my opinion, is that we need more women in positions of management and power: it appears that a natural tendency of women would be to be compassionate and understanding, as well as having more natural skills towards planning and organizing. On the other hand, perhaps men’s ability to focus on a continued task is a reason why there are more men in the engineering world.

It also explains why I would like to see more women in governments and in boardrooms. We are not equal, our differences make our value. We complete one another. That is why we need equality of opportunity, of access, of pay so that we can recognize the unique skills of every individual.

But, of course, these are generalities and each and everyone of us is different and unique.


The problem about statistics

June 18, 2013

Statistically, there are about nine men for every woman in the world. This is based on a survey of the Holiday Inn breakfast room this morning.

Based on historical evidence, on average I do not die.


SEPG Conferences Dates

June 12, 2013

We (finally) have confirmation that the SEPG conferences are going to happen this year. The SEPG conferences have been the largest conferences on process improvement and change management and a must-see event for anyone involved in the process industry. Previously, they were organized by the SEI, from this year, they are being organized by the CMMI Institute.

I will be there, I hope to see you there as well.


The path to success

June 11, 2013



Why are you doing this?

June 9, 2013

I am regularly approached by organizations who want to be appraised at CMMI Maturity Level x. When asked why, they give me a variety of responses, which basically come down to the fact that they would like a certificate to hang in the lobby. It may be that a customer or prospect has requested this, or it may be that someone on the board of directors read an article. When challenged and questioned on the level of investment, the disruptive aspect of an appraisal, management’s responsibility for the results, they often show that they have no understanding of what they are trying to do.

Another traditional subject covered is that “we are looking at achieving maturity level 3, we do not need to go higher (it is too expensive)” and the question “is this little bit enough to satisfy the maturity level?”

We must ask ourselves how much money I am willing to spend on getting a piece of paper in the lobby. It might open the door to being able to respond to a request for proposal from a potential customer, but that paper will not noticeably improve quality, time-to-market, productivity, reliability, ability to meet deadlines, customer satisfaction, employee retention, or make sure repeat business from satisfied customers. Just like a university diploma does not make you intelligent.

The aim of an improvement programme, of a change programme (using CMMI or any other technique) is to improve organizational performance, and not to implement fancy processes. If what you are doing does not help you to manage your organizational performance, you are wasting time and energy and not really improving anything. It is the difference between studying what may be useful in your career and studying to pass the test and forget everything the next day.

CMMI, ISO, Six-Sigma, Lean and the others are not necessary to improve organizational performance: they are tools and if they are used intelligently, they may help guide you, but implementing them without thinking will only lead to expensive long-term failure. Within CMMI, there is a process area called “Organizational Performance Management” (or OPM). OPM is listed at the highest level (maturity level 5), because this is the goal, the rest of the model, practices, goals, process areas, etc. are only some of the steps which are required to be able to manage your organizational performance effectively and efficiently.

Managing performance requires understanding performance. That can only be done when you have stabilized the performance of your teams, projects, services and are delivering products in a predictable way. In order to do that, you need to understand the level of predictability of your most important work practices (or processes), which means they need to be regularly monitored and analysed. You can only do that if you are sharing the practices in teams and projects enough to get statistically significant data. And of course, you only want to share the practices and processes which are bringing real benefit to your business, your staff, your products and services.

And so, we look  at what you need to do, from the beginning, we can travel through your capability maturity (maturity is how well you know your own strengths and weaknesses, how well you understand what are the limits of your potential, this comes with time, experience, successes and failures).

The first step we must consider is what you are trying to achieve. If I talk about your productivity, what do you understand? Are you trying to produce the highest number of widgets, reduce the time to market, offer zero-defect products, or be the cheapest service provider in the world? This is necessarily the first step in your improvement programme: decide, define, document and distribute your vision for the organization; there is little point in trying to be recognized as the best in the world, if your staff is cutting corners to keep down costs. Your goals are well communicated, and you are putting metrics in place which support them. From the start, you need to understand that people act according to how they are measured. I am always amazed at the number of companies which tell me that “quality” is their primary motivation, but then only measure delays and budgets: you are in fact communicating that quality means fast and cheap.

After this, you need to allow the professionals to do their jobs as they believe is most appropriate to meet these goals. The results, practices and methods are analysed and compared so that we can figure which are the tools, practices and processes worth sharing across the organization. Once they are shared, we can start to measure the predictability of the results and refine them which will finally allow us to manage our organizational performance.

The starting point is not to identify steps and document this as the standard process which must be obeyed at all costs. The starting point is not to just talk about quality, but measure only delays and budgets. The starting point is not to find the minimum required to satisfy some theory; the starting point is to inspire your teams to reach the end-point.

The end point is organizational performance management.

In CMMI terms: maturity level 5 is the only destination possible, the rest are dead-ends.


Reviving CMMI – a Conclusion?

June 3, 2013

Third item on this topic, I know. Some people believe that  I spend too much time complaining without proposing a solution, so here is my proposal: measurement and analysis should be expected from the start.

Many times, when I have asked for evidence of the implementation of measurement and analysis, I have been provided with evidence of project monitoring and control. Measuring that your project tasks are progressing, that you are respecting delays and budgets is not part of MA, it is part of WMC/PMC. It should not be difficult to include in either the model or the appraisal methodology a better set of examples of how MA should be applied, and place this as a requirement in the appraisal process.

Currently, the appraisal method focuses on the practices; during the training, we say that the goals are what is important and are required, the practices are only “expected”. However, during the appraisal, we focus on measuring the practices rather than the goals. We assume that if all the practices are in place, then the goal must be satisfied, if one practice is missing, then the goal is not satisfied. And even if we did, I cannot help but notice that the goals (and the purpose) statement all focus on activities, on tasks, on practices, and not on results.

Let’s require business measurements and demonstrations of results for each goal. CMMI is (supposedly) there to help achieve business productivity results and not just to do a series of tasks to get a certificate we can hang up behind the reception desk.

Why do you do “Requirements Management”? Show me results. Show me that the number of issues related to unidentified change requests has diminished; show me the reduction in unexpected requirements appearing during the V&V stage; show me data that show how the time to find a deviation from customer requirements in your project plans and other work products has gone down, because you have implemented a successful “two way traceability”. Show me measurements that demonstrate the impact on the quality of your products and services, on customer satisfaction. If you cannot show me that, you have not implemented a useful approach to requirements management. Of course, people will argue that you cannot measure improvements at maturity level 2, you can only really have useful measurements at maturity level 4. But that is not true. You do not need control charts or five years of history to show a trend. Because if you did, no one would manage to satisfy the expectation for a quality trends in the PPQA process area at maturity level 2 – or maybe you have just skipped over that passage and focused on having a static checklist? If you implement a practice, whether from the CMMI or elsewhere, it is because you expect to see a change one that practice is performed; if you expect to see a change, there is something which can be measured.

This is not a complicated addition to the model, it is only a clarification of the real purpose behind each one of the goals. A change in the appraisal process of this magnitude would ensure that people understand that CMMI actually has a benefit, and it would allow us (finally) to have some decent metrics as to the value of the approach.

I don’t know if anyone will read this or pay attention, but I am glad I got it off my chest. Hopefully, my next post will be about something else. Maybe I will develop a business based appraisal system of my own, but if I am not supported by the community at large, no one will use it and I will waste my time: it is so much easier to do what the model says without thinking.

and you might get a certificate to hang up, a logo to put on your website…

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