mandag den 1. juni 2015

Thoughts on Process Improvement

A week ago I posted a small article with thought on sucessful facilitation of test process improvement at In that article I focused on one my favorite key points within process improvement - how to eat an elephant! the fact that big bang process improvement projects rarely have success because people can't keep up and digest all the new activities, workproducts etc. In stead I recommend an approach where you do it just like you would eat that elephant - one bite at the time.

But there are several key things to focus on when you are involved in improving a process, at least;

  • Know where you are (Current situation)
  • Know where you are going (Target situation)
  • How to eat an elephant
  • Learning
  • Ownership and commitment
  • Process first, then tools
In the following weeks I will do a bit of blogging on the other parts than the elephant :-).

Today: Know where you are - and know where you are going!

If you are going on a road trip and you want to draw a route (or get the route in your GPS) you need two key points: the position you are at now, and the target position where you want to go to. 
But that doesn’t just go for road trips and travelling – it goes for process improvement as well.

How can we identify what we need to improve if we don’t know how we are working today, and even more important – what works and what don’t? So you need to start with creating the baseline – identify current state of the process in your team/project/organization. 

There are many ways to do this, two of the formal ways of measuring the process maturity within testing is the TMMI and TPI NEXT assessment. Both of these are formal processes for identifying, analyzing and evaluating the maturity of a given test process – no matter whether we are talking about a single project or an entire organization. With these formal methods you can either do the assessment yourself or you can ask someone outside the organization to do it, and the result of the assessment should be both a report on current state but also a recommended roadmap for improvement.

But you can also do that in an informal manner. The important thing here is; Involve the right people from the beginning! In my current assignment we started with a brown paper exercise involving the different stakeholders in the program. Together we drew the current process using post-its and identified unknowns, questions and problems with post-its of another color.

We discussed every step on the way agreeing how the process looked at that time, and after our workshop the drawing was presented to the rest of the team to ensure that we were agreeing on a common picture of the as-is process. The drawing stayed on a wall for a period allowing people to think and comment, a new color of post-its were available making it visible what was added afterwards :-)

With the drawing you have an illustration of where you are – what is the current state of your organization within testing, where your strengths are and also your weaknesses. 

With that knowledge it is now time to discus where you want to go. Together identify potential improvements, prioritize them and create an improvement backlog. Since I love illustrating things in swim lanes I took the brownpaper and created a process drawing in Vision that made the current responsibilities and flow visible. One of the first things in the backlog was then to create the to-be process drawing - the "dream target" and discuss what low hanging fruits you could pick to make the first visible improvements and get the sense of progress from an early point.

We of course agreed that this was not a process goal that could not change, we learn as we go and improve the dream target as we do - it is a moving target but at least we had a basic idea about where we were going.

At this point in time we didn't talk about tools, we talked a bit about what basic internal training we could do - but the main thing was to get a common picture of the journey we were going to take.

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