Saturday, May 13, 2006

Who is more important than What or How

Do you have an organisation that talks the talk but doesn't actually walk the walk? Do you always sit around and discuss how "it would be better if we just". Do improvements die on the vine?

I've found that who is always more important than what. Once you answer who, everything else becomes easy. Who is responsible for ensuring that the change happens? Who is responsible for the outcome of the task? Who is held accountable when the code (or any work item) fails?

That's the hard part. Once you decide who wants to be (or is to be made to be) held accountable, then it becomes a matter of following through. It moves improvements from inidividual initiative and into the realm of employee performance management.

Otherwise, I've found that everyone sits around waiting for someone else to make the move. Even if someone steps forward and does the work, it will frequently require the agreement of others to use it. If they don't agree, the improvement will die from neglect (see my outsourcing discussion). This increases the frustration for everyone.

Of course, there could be other reasons for the behaviour. It could just be that even if management says they consider something important, they don't really mean it. It could be that people are afraid to accept responsability, perhaps there is a tendency to shoot the messenger. Perhaps your staff are like little dogs who have been beaten too many times and now flinch whenever someone waves.

It could be many things. Even if any of negative reasons are true, the key is still to make individuals accountable. Once they are accountable for both the good and bad things they do, you will quickly see them start to change how the job is done.

After all, people do like to take pride in their work.

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