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Achieving Harmonization

To achieve harmonization, we have translated findings from research—much related to pairings such as CMMI and Six Sigma or ITIL and Six Sigma—and from field experience, creating a reasoning framework. This framework contains some basic questions to address and principles to use—working together to achieve alignment in the layers and levels of an integrated business. This reasoning framework can be used regardless of where you are in your process improvement journey. Following are brief descriptions of key aspects of our harmonization reasoning framework.

Mission Translation: Align Organizational and Improvement Objectives and Identify Candidate Technologies

Mission and business drivers should govern the selection of each improvement technology that is adopted within an organization. For this approach to work, the mission and highest-level strategic objectives must be decomposed to operational objectives. Technologies then should be selected based upon their ability to directly provide or indirectly enable process features and capabilities that are needed to achieve mission and operational objectives.

For instance, in Figure 1, the ubiquitous goal of customer satisfaction is decomposed into subordinate goals related to improving an existing IT system, creating a new IT system via "acquisition" (contracting/outsourcing), and ensuring that the right resources are available to do the work. [3] The improvement group for the IT organization that developed this diagram then proceeded to identify the strategies, tactics, and measures to achieve each goal shown in the diagram. They inherited Lean, which had already been chosen as a governance model by the enterprise, but the decision about which improvement technologies to support process establishment was at their discretion. For example, for the goal "Establish acquisition processes," they chose a blend of process maturity models and ISO standards, specifically CMMI, CMMI-ACQ, and ISO 12207.

The improvement group supplemented the selection of these candidate models and standards with the decision to reuse or extend processes being implemented to support the goal "Stabilize/establish engineering processes." Specifically, the group chose processes related to measurement and analysis, requirements development and management, causal analysis, supplier agreement management, decision analysis, risk management, project planning, monitoring and control, and configuration management. The group decided to use the value-stream mapping tool from Lean to finalize the process architecture (guided by the models) and "design in" efficiency and attention to customer value.

Figure 1

Figure 1 Decomposition of a high-level goal.

Finalize Selections and Categorize the Improvement Technologies Strategically

In the alignment of technologies to mission, each technology is selected (or confirmed) independently for its potential functional contribution to the organization’s objectives. In strategic categorization, each one is examined for its high-level relationship to the others. Additionally, this categorization can be used to refine the list of technologies by identifying gaps and enabling high-level validation and verification. It’s important to note that this is not a one-time activity, but rather an iterative process that needs to be performed each time new improvement technologies are considered for inclusion in the organization’s process landscape.

To support categorization, we use a strategic taxonomy to distinguish technologies in two dimensions:

  • Governance, infrastructure, and tactical
  • Discipline-specific and enterprise-oriented

Figure 2 depicts this taxonomy graphically.

Figure 2

Figure 2 Strategic classification taxonomy.

As a combination of technologies is determined, there are a few considerations for translating strategic-improvement technology selections into practice:

  • What is the desirable implementation sequence?
  • What are the enabling and other strategic relationships between technologies?
  • How are the selected technologies interwoven and implemented?

When used as a backdrop for benchmarking and pattern analysis, the taxonomy in Figure 2 can provide insights about effective implementation sequences of different technologies. Coupled with logical analysis and research about technical and feature relationships, such taxonomy-based views can shed light on enabling or other strategic relationships that may influence sequencing decisions, as well as help refine selection decisions. For instance, People CMM has been observed in many high-performing organizations as an enabler of discipline-specific infrastructure technologies such as CMMI and ISO 12207. And Six Sigma has been found feasible as an enabler and accelerator of technologies such as CMMI and ITIL. [Siviy 07].

Once strategic technology selections and decisions are made, it’s necessary to dive more deeply into the technical relationships between and among technologies to determine how best to interweave and implement them. The remaining aspects of harmonization, summarized in the following sections, address these technical relationships and how to translate them to process and implementation.

Design Your Improvement Solution

Whether implementing technologies singularly or in an integrated approach, some degree of tailoring or customization typically is required to enable the technology or technologies for rollout to the organization. For multimodel process improvement, we recommend supplementing strategic categorization with composition of selected improvement technologies and process architecture. These aren’t necessarily sequential, but may be quite iterative, and the starting point may vary. Some organizations may find it most effective to begin with process architecture and then back into technology selection and composition. Others may find it most effective to follow the sequence from strategy to tactics.

Compose the Improvement Technologies Tactically and Operationally

When designing your overall improvement solution, understanding the details about how technologies connect with each other is critical. This is a specialized task and represents one of the major contributions that improvement groups can make to the process and to improvement integration within their own organizations. Further, this task is one of the major contributors to cost reduction in process improvement, as it integrates the output from previously disparate groups, enabling fewer disruptions of projects and operational units during improvement rollout.

In contrast to strategic categorization, which involves high-level technology relationships to aid selection decisions and alignment, technology composition examines overlapping, distinctive, and enabling functionality among technologies. When considering pairs or small groups of technologies, a "what-how" relationship often emerges. Likewise, detailed feature mappings may be created. Both of these are useful but insufficient, however, simply due to the complexity that occurs as you add more technologies into the mix. To address and reduce this complexity, we are developing a tactical taxonomy called "element classification."

Architect Your Processes to Achieve the Mission

For the most part, engineers and operational staff don’t execute improvement technologies to get their daily work done. Instead, they execute the organization’s process, including the adaptation(s) made to it as a result of the influence of the improvement technologies. It’s a big leap from technology composition to process architecture and definition. In fact, we see these as separate but related tasks. Technology composition is not the equivalent of process architecture and process description; both are needed. Process architectures and descriptions define the day-to-day operations, including how work gets done and products get out the door.

From our research observations, the most successful organizations using multiple improvement technologies created a process architecture and accompanying process descriptions—their corporate way—and then mapped the technologies of interest to it. Their specific mappings served both to verify features and to ensure compliance, where the latter was needed. With this approach, improvement technology implementation was seamless and transparent to the engineers and operational staff. The process also was deployed rapidly and effectively, and easily updated over time. [Siviy 07]

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