Monday, 29 May 2017 09:55

OUTSIDE THE BOX Forum: Imbed Continuous Process Improvement in the Project

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We started the project with a three phase Framework (Ideation, Set-up, Execution).

As the project moved through these phases, we found the process and product improvement opportunities that might be applied to the Framework and even folded back into the project from whence they came. Before this, our process improvement efforts were all made post-project. The motivation and benefits have been better with the embedded approach.

This article introduces an entirely new way to think about process and product improvement programs. It is not an after the fact assessment. Rather, it is conducted along with the project, and its results factored back into the project as appropriate. Plus, it is the first application of the Declaration of Interdependence for process improvement to reach the public forum.

Background

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Our Framework is shown below in Figure 1.

Figure 1: The three phases of the ECPM Framework

This three-phase framework has several features that allow for maintaining the adapted PMLC Model to the changing profile of the project. Among those features is an embedded Continuous Process Improvement Program shown in Figure 2 below. The Program is based on the Declaration of Interdependence (Source: The Declaration of Interdependence (2005 David Anderson, Sanjiv Augustine, Christopher Avery, Alistair Cockburn, Mike Cohn, Doug DeCarlo, Donna Fitzgerald, Jim Highsmith, Ole Jepsen, Lowell Lindstrom, Todd Little, Kent McDonald, Pollyanna Pixton, Preston Smith and Robert Wysocki. www.pmdoi.org). To achieve this business value, we draw upon the values expressed in the DOI. The 15 authors of the DOI are a respected group of project management consultants and trainers who have earned the right to speak. Their contribution will be seen as a major contributor to our understanding of the critical role that Patterns can play in the successful execution of complex projects.

The six principles of the DOI capture the essence of an effective complex project management environment. Underlying these principles are three necessary and sufficient conditions:

  • Each principle is critically important
  • Each principle captures a new and innovative management concept
  • Each principle captures the operating framework of its authors

The six principles of the DOI are:

  • We increase return on investment by making the continuous flow of value our focus.
  • We deliver reliable results by engaging customers in frequent interactions and shared ownership. 
  • We expect uncertainty and manage for it through iterations, anticipation, and adaptation. 
  • We unleash creativity and innovation by recognizing that individuals are the ultimate source of value, and creating an environment where they can make a difference. 
  • We boost performance through group accountability for results and shared responsibility for team effectiveness.
  • We improve effectiveness and reliability through situation-specific strategies, processes, and practices.

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Figure 2: Imbedded Process Improvement Using the Declaration of Interdependence

Since its publication 12 years ago the DOI has become the Call to Action for assessing the complex project management landscape and is now the best descriptor we have for the hyper-performance end state of project management. It is the foundation on which the ECPM Framework continuous process improvement program is designed and evaluated.

MEASURING THE EXTENT OF DOI IMPLEMENTATION

To date, there has not been a set of metrics that describes the extent to which a project management model has achieved the DOI End State. In fairness, that DOI End State is a continuous journey rather than a destination to be reached. In defense of not having such metric(s) is that a DOI environment does not lend itself to quantitative assessment. That must be corrected if we intend to implement a continuous process improvement program for DOI implementation. In the absence of a quantitative metric, a surrogate must be defined so that progress towards that DOI End State can be measured.

As the ECPM Framework evolves through both customization to meet the specific needs of an organization and through the results of the continuous process improvement program contributions to DOI realization will occur. Additionally, improved DOI realization will result in an increase in delivered business value and improved project success. Quantitative assessment of those improvements is not likely to be correlated with any specific DOI but rather attached at the project level. Qualitative assessment at the DOI level may be the only reasonable expectation. Let us take each DOI principle separately and see how we might make those assessments with a set of quantitative metrics.

  • We increase return on investment by making the continuous flow of value our focus.Return on Investment is a direct measurement of incremental business value delivered. The incremental business value may be the only quantitative metric we have, but the delivery of that value may well stretch out over a long time frame. Incremental business value can be measured, but it may not be available in a timely manner for use in the continuous improvement program. Early estimates may be made however. To be useful as a measure of the flow of value, we need to think in smaller increments. For example, every task that contributes to the delivery of a solution requirement adds value to the then updated solution. That suggests some primitive Earned Value may provide a measure of incremental value over time. Tasks are work embedded in activities and activities are work packages embedded in a cycle build plan. So the number of tasks completed against the number of tasks in the cycle plan gives us not only a measure of the flow of value but also a measure of effectiveness and efficiency.
  • We deliver reliable results by engaging customers in frequent interactions and shared ownership.
    • Adjacency diagrams may be useful. What data is needed; how is it analyzed, and how is it graphically presented?
    • The degree to which clients participate. This is a subjective assessment. Tracked over time, it is a measure of improved interactions and shared ownership.
  • We expect uncertainty and manage for it through iterations, anticipation, and adaptation.
    • Probative vs. integrative swim lane frequency tracking and trend analysis. To dig a bit deeper consider the percentage of Probative Swim Lanes that result in some increments being added to the solution. Alternatively, better still what are the percentage of 2nd attempt Probative Swim Lanes that result in some solution increments. How about the 3rd attempt? Somehow these trends are a measure of the improved effectiveness of the Probative Swim Lane process. You see the pattern emerging.
  • We unleash creativity and innovation by recognizing that individuals are the ultimate source of value, and creating an environment where they can make a difference.
    • Observing participation in brainstorming sessions and problem-solving
    • Link between the process manager and the product manager
    • Client generated scope change requests vs. developer generated
    • Client participation in brainstorming sessions
  • We boost performance through group accountability for results and shared responsibility for team effectiveness.
    • Relative frequency of I, You and We in conversations.
  • We improve effectiveness and reliability through situation-specific strategies, processes, and practices.
    • PMLC Model adjustments and changes.

Putting It All Together

In practice, I have not used the project team to conduct the assessment. I have commissioned a small team from the PMO to conduct it. Their objective is a fair and unbiased assessment with minimal demand on the project team.

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Robert Wysocki

outsidetheboxRobert K. Wysocki, Ph.D. President EII Publications, LLC, has over 45 years experience as a project management consultant and trainer, information systems manager, systems and management consultant, author and public speaker. He has written 24 books on project management and business analysis. His materials are used in over 350 colleges and universities worldwide.

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