People, Process, Technology & Metrics… an ongoing drama.
I’m one of those people who take my work home with me. I know, I know… there’s that whole work-life balance thing that I’m always “struggling” to overcome. But, I haven’t yet. I am kind of sorry about it, but at the same time… not deeply sorry.
Anyway … I’ve wanted to put this concept in an analogy outside of IT for quite a while now, because these types of discussions can get so heated when *one such as myself* wants to make commentary about situations that happen every day. So, here goes…
Goal: Clean Mom’s car as quickly as possible while maintaining peace and stability in the family.
Metrics: Total Time to clean, Time to de-clutter, time to vacuum, total time to wash interior, total time to wash exterior, time to put away clutter in house **that wasn’t put away when children exited car as Mom and Dad asked them to do 14 times** (kind of a long metric description)
WHEREAS… Total time to clean = Time to de-clutter + Time to Vacuum + Total time to wash interior + Total time to wash exterior… Time to put away should be done in parallel if possible!
Technology: Vacuum Cleaner, Pressure washer (a *nice to have* more than a requirement)
People – I took the liberty of making definitive and final judgments about personality types (might not be possible in a corporate environment):
Child 1 – 13 years old – More of a planner than a doer, avid and fast reader, obedient to the point of literalism, does well with instructions, but typically doesn’t take initiative. Introvert, Melancholy-Phlegmatic Personality – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_temperaments
Child 2 – 12 years old – Man of action, will NOT read instructions voluntarily, works very hard, but sometimes carelessly, short temper, volatile but gets the job done, potential explosive situations with child 4. Extreme Extrovert. Choleric Personality
Child 3 – 10 Years old – Thoughtful and hardworking, but very sensitive, likes to goof off with #2, but if #2 isn’t around he’s the best worker in the family, can be highly critical of others, more of a math guy than a reader. Mild Introvert, Melancholy-Choleric Personality
Child 4 – 10 Years old – Carefree and Joyful, Careless, her work floats between 2 extremes – proactive helpfulness or utter non-working goofiness, raises morale of the other workers, very determined when she’s focused, but you can’t necessarily coax her into focus… she must be won over. Mild Extrovert, Sanguine-Phlegmatic Personality
Process (I’m not going to draw diagrams, sorry): There are many different ways to wash a car inside and out. We could outsource it ($25)… but when compared with free child labor… we choose to handle this one internally. Still, how do you tackle the job?
Scenario #1 – Have 1 child clean the car inside and out as a punishment for something wrong they did that week. Supervision level needed is very high, resource drain is low
Pros – Justice (paying for past wrongs), frees up the other children to help in the yard. Cons – Slow, constant supervision of angry worker who drags out work as a complaint against the punishment
Scenario #2 – Have all 4 children working, each with different roles assigned based on their strengths and weaknesses. Supervision level needed is high, resource drain is high
Pros – No complaints from one another about “fairness”, can be faster Cons: goofing off between child #2 & #3 is likely, argument between #2 & #4 is likely
Scenario #3 – Have the most efficient team tackle the job. Supervision level is low, balanced resource drain
Pros – Very Fast, High Quality Cons: can lower morale outside team, burnout potential
Scenario #4 – Dad cleans the car… Ha! I don’t think so! I guess this is why people don’t like managers? Supervision level is 0.
Scenario 1 typically gets you the longest time to clean, but it does free up the other team members… so multiple tasks can be completed (Those dishes aren’t going to clean themselves!). Scenario 1 total time to clean can be improved if incentives are used rather than sticks (for certain individuals)
- How can you apply this to your change process?
- How can this be leveraged in the knowledge management process?
Scenario #2 gets you the lowest total time to clean with effective supervision, but is more expensive.
- What group of individuals works well in the war room?
- Which teams implement projects with the highest combination of speed/quality/satisfaction? How do you measure that?
Scenario #3 gets you the lowest total time to clean consistently, but can cause problems with those that are not a part of the “golden team”
- Is it possible to consistently hire the golden team?
- Is it possible to keep the golden team happy forever?
- What makes them operate that way??
Scenario #4 is monarchy… and really only possible in small companies. Of course, keep in mind that the benevolent king is truly the best system of government… so long as the king remains benevolent!
Takeaways, opinions & facts:
- Employees are not children; this fact carries ramifications. Have you ever left a job simply for a better boss? Do you consider yourself to be invaluable?
- Carrots work better for some, sticks for others. Some individuals may seem incompetent to you, but it’s because of the way you are handling them.
- Given an identical process & team, a vacuum cleaner (technology) makes the job faster
- Of course, the flip side of that is that if you vacuum the same spot over and over again with the best vacuum cleaner in the world, the whole car doesn’t get clean.
- Personalities matter. Is the hero/cowboy mentality ALWAYS bad? Should every process ALWAYS be followed? Is the end goal of every IT organization to follow a process?
- Process – In my opinion, the main purpose of process engineering is to determine maximum productivity & quality while minimizing unacceptable risks. In this example, the risks might be a broken vacuum cleaner, wrong chemicals used in cleaning or… even… time (mom can’t use car because it’s being cleaned for 8 hours).
Lee Cullom is President of Northcraft Analytics. Since 1996, he has held a variety of roles in information technology, including process consulting, presales, implementations, internal IT and management. Prior to launching Northcraft Analytics, he spent much of his time with software manufacturers like Oracle, Remedy Corporation, Peregrine, BMC Software, and CA. Having viewed IT from the perspective of a vendor and a customer, this gives Lee a unique and entertaining perspective
© 2008 SYS-CON Media Inc.