July 27, 2006

SQA : Organizational Culture

Interface - A surface forming a common boundary between adjacent regions, bodies, substances, or phases

SQA is an interface between the organization and its people, the human capital. The organization sets goals for process improvement, chooses a model to adhere to and then organization wide processes are rolled out. SQA must be careful in this aspect of his job. The roles, responsibilities, project organization and organizational hierarchies should be clearly understood.

The escalation mechanisms and modes of escalating vary in the organizations. An SQA will not be very well received if the escalations start taking place, in the organizations, where, escalating an issue is a rarity. On the other hand, if SQA function works only on the basis of escalating the issues then one may not be able to do the job without several escalations a day. However, if SQA function escalates too often and too many times, either the importance of escalation is lost or the efficiency of SQA function comes under scanner.

Similarly, in some organizations, communication may be written & formal and in others, it may be verbal & informal. Clear understanding of organizational factors like the size, organizational goals, and behavioral patterns are critical for smooth functioning of SQA.

It’s the presence of such factors that make the gestation period in process industry on higher side and therefore, it will be a while before some basic understanding is developed and right level efficiency sets in.

The SQA should strive to understand the organization culture. The value of the SQA will be visible and seen by relevant stakeholders when the SQA conducts himslef according to the established organization culture.

July 20, 2006

SQA : Personal Integrity

Most of the times, the job of SQA is to monitor the process which is planned to be followed in the project and report any violations in this process. The SQA report is shared with the Senior Management along with the project manager. It is this and its consequences which can be challenging and should be handled with care and caution.

In a typical SQA report, it’s critical to highlight the potential risks a project may be exposed to due to any violation in process.

It must be done with objectivity in mind, nevertheless. This essentially means that all SQA reviews must be done without bias, in line with the project’s objectives against a criterion.

Moreover, it is the utmost duty of SQA to be firm on findings.

Given this, let’s face it!

In any kind of set up where-in the performing groups need some kind of 'go-ahead' from an internal group, the bureaucracy, politics and some pressure building tactics will be present, the degrees of these factors may vary in organizations.

Presence of these factors combined with the fact that an SQA report can potentially halt the delivery is conducive to a scenario wherein such pressure building and influencing tactics can exist and flourish.

An SQA must recognize that such tactics may into play several times and there may be an increase in probability of affected groups and people will exercise such tactics to influence the SQA report in their favor which basically means ignoring process violations for a ‘timely go-ahead’.

If this is done, then it amounts to incorrect reporting, an absolutely unethical practice.

Additionally, SQA must also recognize that many of the SQA decisions may have to be compromised, if one bows out to such influencing forces. If one compromises on SQA decisions, it directly amounts to undermining the importance of SQA role and making SQA redundant.

Once the non-compliances are reported and then the next step, many times is not closing them, mind you, it is being firm on them.

These are the challenges which an SQA has to face and it warrants a strong display of objectivity, personal commitment and integrity.

Once we display it few times, the pressures to influence cease to exist.

July 13, 2006

Becoming an SQA

I was six years into it and was loosing my passion!

Looking back, I think, it was the sheer volatility of technology, which I had witnessed, had made me to loose interest in it. I had seen technology advancing with such a speed, that before I could be satisfied with my own understanding of one aspect of it, the projects demanded another aspect to be understood, mastered and delivered in time and as always, the delivery date was ‘yesterday’.

The term, ‘I want it yesterday’ is so commonly used in projects that it almost amounts to its abuse. It was as good as saying all issues needed to be fixed yesterday and today was day to freak out!!!

For me it had lost its significance for none of the cases I came across, were so critical that it demanded the usage of this phrase. There were instances in abundance, though, when it was (mis)used to build up pressure on the development teams. It was a typical case of using “Urgent and Important” phrase in the subject of almost every email and then loosing the significance of importance and urgency of the emails.

With no passion for technology and the associated work, I decided to give up on technology and pick up something else in the IT projects. However I had no idea of what it could be.

And there I was disillusioned and wandering.

I recall the period after this move as one of the most uncertain and confusing. It was in this aftermath of my decision, I came across an opportunity in the Quality function to work as SQA. I grabbed it. It was a reluctant move, based primarily on intuitive thoughts, a friendly advice and the fact that there was no better alternative available.

Four years down the line, I am glad I did it. Being an SQA for around three years was an enlightening experience. It was a defining period of my IT career. It gave me room for creativity. This was so beautiful experience. Being able to apply theory with my own thoughts!
Indeed appears a childish statement however this is the most simplistic expression I can think of!

I have enjoyed my role thoroughly which has involved lot of interactions, application of interpersonal and communications skills. While relationship building became a day to day task, the role demanded incredible display of communication skills, problem solving, handling escalations, articulation of issues and most importantly, personal integrity. Though the CMM skills were necessary requirement, a continuous touch with the QMS helped me to keep my knowledge relevant to the organization’s requirements.

At a personal level, I owe a long list of friends to this role.

Based on whatever understanding I have developed, in a series of brief articles, I will try to explore the demands of SQA role.

July 11, 2006

Job change: A Paradigm Shift???

Recently I changed my job!

Not that I was fed up in the old organization, but there were many factors behind this decision

  • Most importantly, I had decided to build my career in CMM and related frameworks
  • Professional headhunters and recruiters in the companies had started to ask me why in the same organization for the last five years (!!!)
  • I think, one has to follow the prevailing pattern. In Indian IT, very few people keep the same company (?) for longer duration. Of course, unless one gets supernatural growth and sees some professional benefits in sticking with one organization
  • While I saw nothing wrong in continuing in the same organization for next three years, it was this market mood which had set me thinking about it
  • The sheer excitement of the prospect of changing a job fuelled my desire

I floated my resume and spread the word through my friends and landed a good opportunity.

After changing the job, I realized that I was stepping in to a different paradigm. The organizational culture becomes a paradigm for someone who has spent good time of one’s career in one organization. A job change in this situation means that one is stepping out of one paradigm and going into another one.

Therefore, a job change, in a sense, is a paradigm shift.

With this as background and given that my experience ranges to approximately a decade, let me share an article with you. I came across this article recently through a newsletter. Let me say, personally, it’s a 'well timed' discovery.

Joe Wynne, the author, describes a scenario when one experienced person has been hired in the project team and the subsequent situations it gives rise to.

The author describes the challenges, the leader of the team has, when an experienced person comes on board.

I think, a capable and experienced resource is a dream come true for any project manager and inability to handle this person effectively can prove out to be a fatal and costly mistake.

In my opinion, one must be on a constant watch while in process of integrating himself with the new organization and shoud not let one’s own fundamental values to be compromised. Monetary gains becomes secondary after you spend a decade in the profession. It’s the values that start giving you satisfaction and make your career.

Click here to read the complete article

While I have taken my notes from the article, you can enjoy reading it and take your own notes.

Happy reading

July 05, 2006

Divine Vision - III

Earlier parts
Divine Vision I
Divine Vision II

Eventually, world was a safer place to live!!!

Sounds like a plot from Hollywood?

Yeah it is a plot, but not from Hollywood. In the most simplistic terms, it is one of the interpretations of "The Mahabharata", a sacred Hindu scripture. Some believe its a mythological story, for some its an account of historical events that took place few thousands years ago when the civilizations of the world possessed great knowledge about nature, space and humankind. For some, it’s a piece of fiction.

According to me, it’s a well-crafted historical epic written with few mythological characters. Whatever it is, every time I read something in it, it gives me insights into several aspects of life. There are some powerful lessons to be learned from this great epic. This combined with another epic; “Bhagvat Gita” is a killing weapon in today’s corporate manager’s life.

The man who destroyed the ‘Clones’ is known as ‘Lord Krishna’, in Hindu mythology. He had the vision to keep earth safe from some destructive forces and he accomplished it, successfully.

Project Management is about converting vision into reality. We need to break down our vision into measurable goals and then plan ahead for it. We should have the ability to ‘see the future’ and act accordingly. Our decision should be powerful enough to influence the outcome and responsible enough not to influence the “stake holder’s interests” to compromise it. We should drive our lives in such a way that our days are pleasant enough to make tough and difficult choices. We should always work towards the established project objectives while keeping abreast with the stakeholders interests. Unless we have a systematic approach, we cannot achieve the results as we envision them to be.

Lord Krishna accomplished what he had envisioned. He systematically kept on eliminating everyone associated with evil forces (Clones and associates) and eventually earth was a safe place to live.

However…, He was powered with divine forces. And we are humans. We need power and elegance of systematic approach to help us in achieving. Systematic Project Management just does that. And it is an Enabler.

With a tribute to the visionaries, I start this blog, in which I will write about the IT Projects, Project Management, share my thoughts about the Indian IT, and if its in my capacity, I will also share my thoughts about the future of IT.

this series ends here
The plot of The Mahabharata is my interpretation and I do not claim it to be true. Please read the epic itself if you want to know more about it.

Earlier parts
Divine Vision I
Divine Vision II

July 01, 2006

Divine Vision - II

And he thought he created the future of his own choice…

The powerful thoughts have parallels and nature has her own ways.

When the King was preparing to strike back and his sons were getting ‘manufactured to do so’, somewhere, in distant part of the planet, some sages and saints, who were dedicated to the divine mission of taking care of humanity till they live, were the men who saw the future. With their meditative techniques and psychic powers, they found out what the future would be on the planet…they saw the rules of nature being defied, the manufactured men and women ruling the planet and the earth, the space, the human kind being destroyed never to live again. Then, they knew that the time had come for another plan to be hatched…an unthinkable plan… unprecedented task was to be accomplished and the execution had to be flawless.

They teamed up with the well-known kings, great minds and scholars of that time. They knew that if the King is not stopped now, the humanity would be destroyed forever and the earth would not remain habitable anymore. They saw eradication of the Mankind, suffering of humans and they reasoned that it would take someone wise and enlightened to counter such powerful force .With all their knowledge, which they had gathered in their lifetime, they created an enlightened beautiful man with supernatural physical, spiritual and mental powers. This man had knowledge, possessed wisdom and was guided by the divine forces of the nature. He was wise enough to perceive the future and steer his actions, words, mind and strength for the benefits in future. He was unstoppable once on a mission…an almost Divine Force!

The divine force went on his mission right from his childhood to teenage to the youth and beyond! Throughout his life journey, he had his objectives in his focus and he steered himself to his objectives acting accordingly. Steadily, he reached a point where he had achieved his ultimate goal, to eliminate the hundred sons that the King created to avenge the injustice he had suffered. With that, he also eliminated all who had the knowledge of repeating such an act.

The mission was accomplished and the order of the world was restored.

to be continued...