Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Process Scalability and its Importance

It is often seen that a process that works well for a small organization suddenly seems to fail as the organization grows. The failure is usually attributed to the new systems and the splurge of new people in the organization who do not ‘understand’ the intent and the need of the original process.

The fact however remains that the failure cannot be attributed to the people or the systems, but to the process itself. It is important that when a process is defined, it has to factor scalability. Scalability is defined as the “ability to scale” or the “potential to adapt” itself to new dimensions.

The dimension aspect here is the growth of the organization. A well designed process should be able to factor changes to the organization automatically. Here are some of the typical symptoms where the process is not designed for scalability:
  1. When you find in your QMS any policy or a process that has not been revisited (reviewed, modified, appended etc) for more than 8 months.
  2. When the quality department of the organization is only talking of one thing – “we need to be compliant to CMMI” or “we need to be compliant to ISO” instead of – “we need to see how CMMI can be used to make life easier and business cheaper” or “how can we make process simple”
  3. When only a few are talking about data and metrics while the rest of the organization is fighting on late work hours and poor quality or when there is a lot of blame game that is happening.
  4. Management never questions the integrity of data or how the baselines are arrived at
  5. Organization appoints “fixed” people to do all their process design and most of the times; these people are invisible and get active just before a compliance check etc.
On the other hand, these are the symptoms that indicate a scalable process:
  1. All employees talk about business with the perspective of quality and metrics (data points)
  2. There are employees on rotation to design processes and there is data to prove that the rotation works
  3. The major crib factor is about lack of business or so much of business than about lack of tools, overtime, redundant process etc
  4. All policies and process documents indicate a revision every 8 months (minimum)
  5. Quality team has a strong say and visibility to improve business and there are visible plans months ahead to indicate all checks (internal and external) meetings, internal and external drives etc – across all the departments.
The time period of 8 months is crucial as the efficiency of a designed process can be determined only after a proper gestation period. In an organization where there are capable and scalable systems, there is a check that happens every 6 months to re-visit the past and re-plan the future and the changes to the plan, policies and processes is usually completed after the half yearly inputs from various stakeholders across the organization – within a fixed time after the half yearly inputs and it typically takes about two months time to make those changes.

Anything beyond that is an indication of a process scalability failure.

Process scalability is very important as it helps the not just the growth in the business but also to ensure that the organization is adept in meeting the ‘present’ situation.
There is an interesting quote that says “Yesterday is history, Tomorrow is mystery, but Today is a gift, that is why it is called Present!”.
The processes that are designed should be scalable to be used today; now! If designed properly, it will automatically provide the required data and inputs to be scalable for tomorrow so that it will become less of a mystery.
The most important aspect of having scalability is that the business is not impacted in any way as the organization scales and there are not double and triple efforts that the organization puts to be compliant to a standard, framework or a model or any internal needs of an organization.

Three tips to make the processes scalable:
  1. Have a mechanism where both SQA and SEPG members are rotational within an organization
  2. Make plans visible and managed– ensure that all process related plans are published, communicated and referred to at every given opportunity and that it is monitored for changes regularly
  3. 24X7 Communication – ensure that there are multiple modes of communication throughout the year on the intent and the principles of the various interlinked systems within the organization
It is not enough if only a few people talk about this. ALL should talk the same language and ALL should understand the intent and its importance for this to work.


Shiva said...

Dear VB,
The Information in career tips has cleared my lots of doubt and now i am bit familiar about the future in Quality.
Thanks you very much.

C K Vijay Bhaskar said...

Thanks for your comment.
Do mail me if you need any other info.