Management by Systematic Improvement

Oct 24th, 2002 by Tony in QSM3

In contrast to the Management by Selection Model (which says programmers, analysts, testers, writers, or whoever are born, not made, and that technical people can be ranked on a one-dimensional scale), the Management by Systematic Improvement Model is based on multi-dimensional thinking:

  • People differ in many dimensions that can affect performance
  • Programmers, analysts, testers, writers, or whoever can learn

Here is the way this model is applied:

  1. Identify the good programmers (or any technical workers)
  2. Analyze the performance of the best to determine why they are doing so well
  3. Develop systems (training, technical reviews, teams, mentoring, or modelling) for passing these best processes on to large numbers of people

The model says:

  1. Attention to process increases the awareness of what’s effective
  2. Training increases the penetration of existing effective processes
  3. Identifying effective processes leads to abandoning the ineffective processes

The training, of course, takes many forms. For one thing, simply going through the identification process tends to train everyone involved, so a group effort will have better results than an isolated team of experts. Second, much of the training will be invisible, as many ineffective processes will simply disappear once they have been identified. Third, the training will be more effective if it’s safe, particularly if it’s not used to identify “bad” people and blame or fire them.

For instance, some people think that the purpose of technical reviews is to catch people doing bad things, but their greatest benefit is catching people doing good things. If I’m reviewing your work and see something good, I can safely incorporate it into my own work without ever admitting I was bad.

— Jerry Weinberg, Quality Software Management Vol 3, Chapter 9

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