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The Process of Process Management

The Process of Process Management

W. Edwards Deming brought the first easily understandable structure for process management from his work in Japan after World War II. Deming encouraged the Japanese to adopt a systematic approach to problem solving, which later became known as the Deming Cycle or Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) Cycle. Deming, however, referred to it as the Shewhart Cycle, named after his teacher, W.A. Shewhart. He afterward replaced check with study because that word reflects the actual meaning more accurately. Deming also pushed senior managers to become actively involved in their company's quality improvement programs. His greatest contribution to the Japanese is the message regarding a typical business system. It explained that the consumers are the most important part of a production line. Meeting and exceeding the customers' requirements is the task that everyone within an organization needs to complete. Moreover, the management system has to enable everyone to be responsible for the quality of his output to his internal customers.

Deming's four steps had these tasks:

1.  Plan the short-term objective:

    ●  Determine the time frame.
    ●  Decide what data will be needed.
    ●  Decide what each member will do as part of the project team effort.

2.  Do what the plan said:

    ●  Collect the data.
    ●  Design studies or devices.
    ●  Train people on data collection and analysis.

3.  Check to see that the plan was carried out:

    ●  Compare project studies to plan.
    ●  If the plan was not carried out, then do it.
    ●  Look for lessons for future use.
    ●  Discuss adjustments in approaches.
    ●  Determine courses of action and changes.

4.  Act on the recommendations of the team:

    ●  Implement fixes, adjustments, and so on.
    ●  Inform others of needed changes.
    ●  Improve communications from processes to processes.

As can be seen in the following figure, Kaoru Ishikawa expanded Deming's four steps into six:

Plan:

1.  Determine goals and targets.
2.  Determine methods of reaching goals.

Do:

3.  Engage in education and training.
4.  Implement work.

Check:

5.  Check the effects of implementation.

Act:

6.  Take appropriate action.

Deming/Shewhart/Ishikawa Cycle

Using these six steps, we start to customize our own software product development process definition. Managing software projects is different from managing other projects with tangible deliverables. We must recognize that difference up front as we are deciding on a life cycle set of processes. We can quantify the core knowledge areas of software engineering that must be investigated: software project management planning, metrics databases, libraries of specifications and project plans, completed project ROI analyses, and risk analysis plans for completed projects. We view all these core knowledge areas through specific software engineering processes: planning, estimating, training, performing configuration management, maintaining quality, and performing risk reduction. We then change our basis Deming/Shewhart/Ishikawa Cycle into our process front-end cycle, where the main steps of the process are external to the software engineering processes and the core knowledge areas. Referring back to Figure 2, of "SEI CMM Level 3 Is the Defined Level", these six new steps map to the original PDCA Cycle in this fashion:

Plan maps to Plan.

Do maps to Research, Observe, and Analyze.

Check maps to Adapt.

Act maps to Improve.

Remember that a process is a management paradigm for increasing quality through (1) formal process definition, (2) process measurement, (3) feedback and control, (4) improvement, and (5) optimization. Our process front end provides the structure for these quality steps:

1. Formal process definition is done through using the Process Front End model to analyze the current process for developing software products within the project manager's organization. The Process Front End model works as a focusing mechanism to acquire best practices from the body of knowledge existing outside the organization for new software development products and projects.

2. Process measurement can begin as soon as the process has been defined. The front-end process and any resulting software development life cycle act as a process map for taking measurements. A metrics program must be defined that uses the processes, activities, deliverables, and transitions as points at which to measure the overall process for achievement of quality goals.

3. Feedback and control occur after a series of cycles has been executed and metrics have been collected and analyzed. The formal process definition has its own built-in feedback loops where control can be exercised based on the process measurements.

4. Improvement is the inherent goal of any software engineering process. The ability to repeat processes that succeed and modify processes that fall short of expectation is one of the quality benefits of a formal process.

5. Optimization occurs as improvements are made to repeatable processes. A formal process moves toward optimization because the measurement data that is acquired allows project and process managers to modify the process itself to produce the highest quality results.



Tags

process management, project plan, configuration management
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