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1.6 Learn to Improve

Our five principles are strongly interdependent. If your organization fails to practice one of them, you seriously reduce your chances of successfully implementing the others. For example, if you fail to focus on problems, the following occur:

  • You cannot create new knowledge based on your organization's software practices.

  • A primary motivator for having practitioners participate disappears.

  • Management is more likely to reduce improvement initiatives to traditional support functions with little strategic importance.

  • You are left with only an overall concern for improving software practices, and that concern cannot drive a continuous, long-term improvement effort.

If you fail to adopt other principles, similar weaknesses will result. The five principles are a coherent philosophy of SPI that we have developed through practice. The underlying values are different from or even contradictory to the values of conventional improvement approaches. It is therefore not simply a question of deciding to practice SPI. Learning SPI is a demanding process; it questions personal and professional beliefs and challenges existing traditions.

If you start your SPI initiative as a series of projects, you can maintain your focus and allow for dynamic changes as your particular process evolves. Above all, SPI requires committed, patient participants. To learn SPI, you must be prepared to improve both software practices and existing improvement traditions. To prepare yourself for such a challenge, in Chapter 2 we offer an overview of the existing SPI literature and recommend that you take advantage of the knowledge it contains. Ultimately, however, each organization must find its own path to SPI success. Your primary and most important role will be that of change agent. The best change agents avoid becoming dogmatic SPI followers. Rather, they learn what they can, listen to the many voices within their own organization, and, based on both, they chart the best path toward change.

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