Wednesday, November 29, 2006

November 29, 2006 - Surviving Directional Changes Part 4

So far we have set ourselves up for success and discussed improving while remaining constant to the purpose. Both of these prepare us for changes as long as we see them coming.

Recognize Change. Change is inevitable…unless you are buying coffee at Starbucks with a ten dollar bill. Within the context of surviving change in the QA group there are three kinds of change that I’d like to discuss: Contractual Changes, Organizational Changes and Hidden Changes.

Contractual Changes are obvious when they happen but the impact may not be evident at first. An easy consulting example of this is if your contract switches from fixed bid to a time and materials. If in the original contract the QA group was a non-billable feature it needs to be recognized and billed for or the group will soon be terminated. Our original contract included obtaining CMM Level 3 within 1 year. This forced our focus for the first 12 months was on achieving that. If our contractual agreement changed, our focus and perhaps our charter would have had to change, too.

Organizational Changes may occur without you knowing it immediately but can still have a big impact on the group. If new business management results in a heavier focus on SOX related items, your continuous improvement muscles might get stretched. If the new focus is away from process and more on speed, you will receive more push back from the development teams. As organizational changes happen it is important to identify them and begin looking for clues on their impact. We ran in to this when our direct QA manager changed. The focus moved from the corporate SQA group as our sponsor to the local management as our “client” and ensuring they were satisfied. This shift resulted in substantial changes in the way we operated.

Hidden Changes are a pain in the butt. You find out about them by accident like the party in high school you weren’t supposed to be invited to. Someone says “didn’t you know? Oh, um, never mind.” It happens during audits when the PM says “we’ve been told not to do it that way any more.” Or when someone comes back from the Architecture Review Meeting and informs the team that there is a new requirement to replace all Java code with Mocha Latte.
The best way to catch these changes is by putting yourself in the right places. Get yourself invited to development department meetings. Create a PM Forum where project managers can share war stories, complain and transfer knowledge. Pay attention during audits to the excuses for noncompliance.By setting yourself up for success, continuously improving while focusing on your purpose and recognizing changes you will be able to prolong the usefulness and impact of the QA group.

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