This is the second in a series of articles aimed primarily at those who are beginning or thinking about beginning a process improvement journey. The first article appeared in the CHIPS Summer 2001 edition. The first article addressed I. Motive and provided an overview of the process. This article addresses questions II – Model, and III – Method. The articles address five questions, which have proven useful in thinking about and structuring process improvement programs. Further, they are based on the premise that any process improvement program should be driven by and related to some set of business or overarching organizational needs. Process improvement for its own sake will soon die. It must address strategic organizational imperatives if it is to be successful.
The five questions are:
I. Motive - What are the critical business issues driving process improvement?
II. Model - Which reference model best maps to the organization practices?
III. Method - How can you quickly and effectively identify improvement opportunities?
IV. Managing Change - What factors impact the effectiveness of introduced changes?
V. Measures - What are critical factors in setting up a measurement program?
II. MODEL - Which reference model best maps to the organization practices under consideration?
Models have an important place in process improvement. People generally have a mental picture of how a set of processes work. A specific model can provide at least three things:
A language and constructs with which to communicate – the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) Capability Maturity Model (CMM) and others have proven many times to be a valuable way to help an organization understand and talk about its process issues
A standard of comparison and benchmark to evaluate process effectiveness—one of the original motivations for developing the CMM was to help acquisition organizations evaluate proposed suppliers of military systems. Now it is used by contractors to evaluate the work of subcontractors.
Process Improvement Investment Guidance—the CMM should be considered a process improvement model, in contrast with a process model. Its primary focus is not on mandating a particular set of processes, but rather on helping an organization understand and prioritize its process weaknesses and improvement opportunities. It can provide an organization with guidance as to where to best spend its next improvement dollar.
Additionally, a reference model or process standard is often used as a source of ideas for good practices. There are many improvement or process models available which are intended to address an organization's critical issues. The Software CMM, System Engineering CMM and various DoD standards were the starting points for many of the later models and standards.
The models used in process improvement typically have a structure, which includes process areas, goals, practices and explanatory material. A process area is a cluster of related activities, which achieves a set of goals that are important for enhancing process capability. Process areas focus on such subjects as Requirements Management, Training, Project Planning, Configuration Management, Team Building or Continuous Workforce Innovation. A goal is a single aspect of a process area whose achievement can be objectively determined.
Practices describe the activities and infrastructure, which contribute to effective implementation and institutionalization of goals and process areas. Practices typically are recommended ways of achieving goals; they are not mandatory, as an organization may have a different set of practices, which effectively accomplish a goal. Explanatory material is often included to help an organization understand some of the important elements of practices.
In addition to the model elements note