Principal consultant and experienced software team leader Karl Wiegers outlines how to ease your team into process improvement and other change initiatives.
I've learned that the best motivation for changing how people work is pain. Not artificial, externally-induced pain, such as managers or customers who demand the impossible, but rather the very real unpleasantness the team experiences from its current ways of working. Process improvement and other change initiatives should emphasize first removing, and then preventing, project pain.
Change activities aren't that much fun. They're a distraction from the project work that interests team members the most and delivers business value. To motivate people to engage in the change initiative, the pain-reduction promise must outweigh the discomfort of the effort itself. Find the influencers in your organization and their pain points, and connect them to the change goals to lay a strong foundation on which to build the change effort.
Think about how you would define "pain" in your organization. Identify recurrent problems so you can focus improvement efforts where you know they'll yield the greatest rewards. Common examples of software project pain include:
- Failing to meet planned delivery schedules.
- Releasing products with excessive defects.
- Failing to keep up with change requests.
- Creating systems that aren't easily extended without significant rework.
- Dealing with system failures that force the on-call support person to work in the middle of the night.
- Delivering products that don't adequately meet customer needs.
- Dealing with managers who lack a sufficient understanding of current technology issues and software development approaches.
- Suffering from risks that weren't identified or mitigated.
Project pain isn't always visible to all those involved. If you aren't aware of your current practices' negative impacts, you probably won't be receptive to suggestions for change. Any proposed change would appear to be a solution in search of a problem. Therefore, identify the causes and costs of problems and then communicate those to the affected people so they understand the drivers and goals of the change initiative.