Archive for the ‘Conferences and Events’ Category

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Pragmatic improvements

June 25, 2014

I have just added two entries in my blog at http://www.qpit.net/blog.html on pragmatic improvement of quality and performance. These include a recording of an interview by David Giard of Microsoft and the (longer) recording of the presentation I gave at this technical conference.
For more information on the yearly technical conference held in Cluj (Romania), please see http://itcamp.ro
For more information on how to implement a practical approach to improving quality and performance in your organization, please contact me through http://www.qpit.net.

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The Q:PIT Newsletter

October 7, 2013

The latest newsletter, written at the SEPG conference (North America) can be found here: http://us2.campaign-archive2.com/?u=a771fbc01f2186c482003dddc&id=38bf6b2e8d.

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Darwinian Management

September 12, 2013

For some time, I have presented and assisted organizations in process improvement activities in a variety of formats.
– I have used CMMI which I believe is a very good change and improvement model;
– I have focused on the need for leadership from the top to make successful changes;
– I have spent a lot of time on the concept of “Forget Process, Focus on People”;
– I have pointed out that evolution works better than revolution;
– I have stressed the idea that this is only a natural way of thinking…

One of the questions that comes up frequently is whether this can be done, without management support. What if management is only interested in short-term benefits, and puts their employees under pressure to produce faster rather than to work more intelligently? Can we still change an organization.

I believe this can be done, but it is not easy. Management, senior and middle, owns the working hours employees put in; if they decide to stop you from doing something, it can be very difficult and challenging to do the opposite. I believe it can be done, but it will not be easy.

For some time, I have pointed out that the concept of “institutionalized processes” are work practices which have entered the DNA of the organization. Since the 19th century, we have created a new living species: the multinational corporation. These are organizations, which, like every other living organism, seek only their own growth and the continuation of their line. They often forget that they were in business to provide a service or a solution, and appear to only focus on killing (bankruptcy) or eating (merger) their competitors. They seek to reproduce (new markets) and grow (expand) at the cost of everything else. Their own well-being (shareholder dividends) are more important than anything else in the world. Like every being, they are made of cells, which are the staff members. These can leave and new cells can be generated (hired) without changing the fundamental structure of the organization. A process which is part of the DNA is one which the employees believe is a natural and normal way of doing things.

Evolution, based on Darwinian principles, says that many random mutations happen within the DNA at every generation. Most of these have no noticeable impact; some have a negative impact and are quickly killed off by the gene-pool; finally, some have a beneficial impact and are found in subsequent generations, developing as they spread and are strengthened through reproduction between “advanced” creatures.

The concept of “Darwinian Management” is the acceptance that employees may try different ways of doing things and learn from the results; if it works, it may become part of the standard approach; if it doesn’t, lessons can be learned.

There are two possible implementations.

In the first case, management understands this and allows experiments to be conducted. This is the idea behind “continuous improvement” and is the recommended approach, it is the one most likely to produce results, but – again – it requires management’s support and leadership.

In the second case, management does not accept this, but believes that they have established everything that needs to be done and the staff just needs to do as they are told. In this case, we can try “improvement by stealth”, in which the staff will try to carry out practices in small teams (or individually) and prove the success – or communicate the lessons learnt.

I will be talking more about this soon at a meeting of the Romanian Association for Better Software, in Cluj. The presentation will be followed by a discussion and debate, during which I hope to be able to refine and complete the concepts of Darwinian Management. For more information on this presentation, see the RABS website.

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Employment for Peace

May 28, 2013

I recently got to attend an IT conference in Cluj-Napoca. This is a medium-sized town in the North of Romania. Romania is one of the poorest countries in the European Union and Cluj is far from the capital city. While it is not impossible, access to Cluj is not always easy, at least not as easy as Munich or Amsterdam — or Bucharest. Yet, we had nearly 400 participants at this conference. These were largely young, dynamic, hard-working people, who were passionate enough about their work and the future of their industry to be willing to sit through very varied levels of presentations (as with all conferences).

This got me thinking about how we, in the wealthy West, treat other nations. Romania is seen, as are Poland, Ukraine, Bulgaria and others, as stealing our jobs and undermining our economy. I believe that this is a profoundly unjust attitude. We are obsessed with economic growth, which has led us into the financially disastrous situation in which we find the world today. Financial journalists and politicians are examining GDP numbers continuously to see if, at the end of any given quarter, we are in recession or not. In fact, the economy has been flat for several years and the “recession” (double-dip, triple-dip) is entirely based on whether the numbers have gone down by a fraction of a percentage point on the last day of the quarter. If they have gone up by micrometre on the last day, then all is well and we are in recovery. Of course, this is all nonsense and we are in the grips of a much more disastrous situation, which we are happy to ignore because of our obsession with the bottom line.

There is a rapidly expanding economy, which will grow even faster in the coming years. These “new” economies are not going to maintain their market share by being the cheapest, they are soon going to show they can develop their own products rather than just work to order; they are going to change from cheap to high-quality, like Japan did fifty years ago (when I was a child, the words “made in Japan” meant it would break within a week; Toyota, Sony and the others have changed that significantly).

In a few years, Pakistan will have established itself as a peaceful democratic economy and will look back at history. When they need to decide to whom they should show their allegiance, with whom they should side in case of global differences, they will have to choose between Russia (who invaded them), the Taliban (who oppressed them), Europe and the US (who send guns and soldiers) or China (who invested heavily in building infrastructure, factories, roads, etc). The answer seems relatively obvious.

We live in a global village, there is no reason not to buy something at the other side of the world, particularly when that something is knowledge or computer software, which can be transmitted at the speed of electricity. Investing in the developing countries, former communist countries, or poorer nations in Asia and in Africa, should become a global priority. We do not need to send charity, we need to send jobs.

In a world in which we are more and more dependent on service and knowledge industries and not heavy industries, we could open research and development centres in distant countries, this would require (of course) building some infrastructure, satellite dishes for communication, schools to train up the people — yet the result would probably still be cheaper than using our over-universityized, self-satisfied Western graduates. In addition, we would create a friendly relationship within these areas helping us maintain a respectable level of quality and productivity.

But more importantly, we would provide education. The data show that countries with higher levels of education have lower birth-rates, lower child mortality rates, but also, a higher probability of living in peace. Peace and prosperity appear to be even more directly related to the level of education of women. Within the engineering world, there is no reason for women not to have the same level of education and employment as men — at the conference in Cluj, we had approximately a 40%-60% split!

Reaching out with our service industry, investing in Lybia, in Nigeria, in Pakistan, in Azerbaijan and in all those other countries should be a priority for the wealthy Western world. The economic potential of countries like Romania should not be a surprise and should not be limited to the lucky few. With some intelligent investment, we should be able to give the world a job, a meal and the option to sleep peacefully at night. Given the opportunity, they are ready, willing and able.

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Another SEPG conference in Europe…

May 31, 2012

The time has come for another SEPG conference in Europe. This time, we are going to Spain. Once again, I wonder whether I should go, is it worthwhile, why do I bother, but I know that, whatever happens, the decision has been made a long time ago: I will be going. This is one of the highlights of my professional year: I can have fun, meet old friends, listen to interesting ideas, express myself – and all this in the name of work.

As (possibly? probably?) the only person who has been to every SEPG conference in Europe, from the first “European SEPG” all those years ago in Amsterdam, through the transfer of the conference from the ESPI Foundation to the SEI and the change of name to “SEPG Europe”. The format has changed a little, not a lot – but then, so have many of the speakers. Some new speakers, new ideas, some old speakers (like myself) repeating again the same leitmotiv, still trying to persuade the world, some excellent speakers, some tedious. A mix of consultants coming to sell themselves (guilty) and some people who have tried it and succeeded or failed – unfortunately very few of them telling us about their failures, some SEI folks filling the gaps.

I expect to meet up with some old friends, meet some new ones, miss a lot of them. Many of my former colleagues have moved on, a few permanently, many to other jobs.

So, why do I keep on going? Because this is the moment to learn lessons, measure the temperature of our industry. I am based in Europe and am not keen on the travel expenses to go to the SEPG conferences in the US, Asia-Pacific or South America, so this is where I see the industry demonstrating itself. Will we have the same number of attendees as 7-8 years ago in Amsterdam or London? Will we have as few delegates as a few years ago in Prague? What are the interests of the market? Is the focus on process improvement, on Agile, on something new? What is happening at (to?) the SEI? This is also the opportunity to find out the brilliant solutions that people have identified: what works, how did they overcome the obstacles, how did they snatch victory out of the claws of defeat? What is the new approach being suggested by long-time favourites?

There are some great speakers present to whom I want to listen. Some of them have something new and original to say, others I know will speak in an interesting and challenging way – even if I know what they are talking about, I look forward to hearing the way in which they present it, what are the new gadgets that are being used to maintain the attention? We have had remote control helicopters, flying monkeys, comedy film clips, people dressing up, provocative titles… there is always something/someone who will change the picture for us.

Of course, there is the frustration of the parallel tracks. This has been the case since the first conference. Why do we have times when there is nothing interesting going on (in my opinion), then three great speakers or topics at the same time in different rooms? If I planned the conference, I would get this better spread out – naturally, that means that other people would wonder the same thing as they are not interested in the same topics as I have. I am afraid that is a problem without a solution (actually there is a solution: join your local SPIN – they do one topic at a time).

Hope to see you there, hope to meet you there. The weather in Madrid looks lovely for the next week and Spanish food must rank among my very favourite in the world.

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