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Archive for May, 2014
Recent discussions on twitter led me to pen this blog post. It seems there is no deference for standards. It is better to do this alone than to rely upon standards. Standards are the bane of product development existence. I believe when it comes to product testing standards can be useful. I would not be willing to throw the baby out with the bath water making assumptions that the standards are bloated and untested. First of all, standards do not necessarily “solve” our problems any more than standards “create problems”. I would agree with some of the twitter arguments that our talented staff should think these things through rather than summarily dismiss or embrace standards.
Consider in the automotive world, specifically heavy trucks. A Class 8 truck is not like a car. These vehicles travel in one year the distance some cars travel in a lifetime. The vehicle is an instrument of profit and not an inconvenience when it is down. Additionally, the amount of variation in feature content and customer applications is considerable compared to the typical automotive applications. The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) is a body that provides standards for developing automotive products. Within that organization, as an example, there is a standard Recommended Environmental Practices for Electronic Equipment Design in Heavy-Duty Vehicle Applications also known as J1455. This standard identifies the electrical and physical stimuli to which an Electronic Control Unit (ECU) can expect to be subjected when mounted on a heavy vehicle. An electronic control unit is usually an embedded subsystem component such as Anti-locking Brake System (ABS) or an Instrument Cluster. For example, the vibration profile is illustrated as Power Spectral Density (PSD) expected considering the mounting location (dash, frame rails, front or rear etc.). The standard also identifies temperatures that can be expected by mounting location of the ECU on the vehicle. This standard, I know specifically, is the result of a collaboration sponsored by SAE with the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM). In other words, the OEM’s have studied some portions individually, taken some measurements, the results of which end up in this standard.
To decide that a standard is not applicable, we must know something about the standard, not summarily dismiss as bloated or trivial arbitrarily. In the case of our ECU environmental standard above, perhaps we need to know specifically what is not applicable. We should also consider what is required for us to understand the true implications (if we think the standard a bunch of puffery). For example, if we believe the standard does not reflect what happens it is incumbent of us to:
- Identify a variety of applications (in our vehicle example, heavy haul, construction, long haul etc.)
- instrument those vehicles
- ship them to a variety of climes (desert, arctic etc.) for testing
- take measurements
- distill the results into something manageable and tangible (actionable) on our part
We will need to do this over a period of time to ensure the validity of the range of stimuli to which the product will be subjected. Meaning this is not a one sample test. This is a nontrivial activity and will cost us in terms of time, talent and money, and perhaps it is a better solution than relying upon the standard.
Contrast this to doing what you think may be happening in the field. Guessing the environmental exposure to the product will require many assumptions to be valid.
Our making the measurements up or arbitrarily assigning values is of little help. Dismissing the standards as bloated without knowing is not productive. Standards are not evil, no more than ad hoc and on the fly are. In my view, standards can help us if taken for what they are, a homogeneous representation of a nonhomogeneous environment. It is up to our talent to make some sense of the standard, know the source of the standard where possible, and understand the implications of real life deviations from the standard. Testing does not end at testing to standards at any rate, as that will likely only tell you where the product passes. We are more interested in where, when and how the product fails. That requires more than a standard.
We will write more on standards in future articles.
Micromanagement and Management
I have had interactions with a company that has employed some of the agile practices in their line management. One of the key elements they have co-opted is the daily meetings tracking progress on the various line management activities. This has led to a conversation with an employee (new to agile) regarding the daily stand up meeting. They saw this meeting as a waste of time and represented management not knowing how to manage. Specifically they called the activities micromanagement.
Micromanagement is defined by Miriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary as:
- :to try to control or manage all of the small parts of (something, such as an activity) in a way that is usually not wanted or that causes problems.
- :to manage especially with excessive control or attention to details.
That same source provides us with this definition of management:
- : the art of managing : the conducting or supervising of something
Daily Sprint Meeting as a Line Management Meeting
Let us consider these definitions in light of the daily sprint meeting. This organization is employing the daily sprint meeting in their line organization to drive performance. These questions are cut from the same cloth as those this company uses in their daily meetings. In this meeting, we are asking three questions of our team in a brief 15 minute meeting. Those questions are:
- What did you do yesterday?
- What are you doing today?
- What are your obstacles or impediments?
Management responsibility is to ensure the team is able to operate in accordance with the company’s methods, and objectives. Management is also responsible for the effective and efficient use of the corporate resources or corporate stewardship. Management is tasked with getting the most out of the available resources.
Over the years, organizations have under gone through right-sizing, doing more with less, and a host of other euphemisms for reduction in force. Our employees are distracted by the important/unimportant and urgent/not urgent (from Stephen Covey’s classic The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People) to the point where management must provide focus on the important and urgent, and that is well within their purview. Management ensures the myriad distractions are mitigated or addressed, without this focus success will be difficult.
Progress is made due to focus and diligent actions toward a goal. Obstructions, obstacles and impediments must be over came or circumvented to be successful. Management’s role is to drive performance toward the activities the organization believes necessary for success. As stewards of the organization’s resources, management has a mandate to ensure and facilitate progress. Measurements, and monitoring are as important for success as setting the right objectives. Monitoring without control is pointless. The coach of a football team does not put his players on the field and do nothing on the sidelines while the game is being played. The coach continues to drive the performance of the team – just like a manager should.
 http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/micromanage last accessed 5/7/2014
 http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/management?show=0&t=1399479833 last accessed 5/7/2014
The Metrolina Chapter of PMI and Value Transformation LLC Presents Product Development and Project Management at the Fayetteville NC Chapter event
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Fayetteville, NC – Local Fayetteville Chapter of PMI and Value Transformation will present Project Management and Product Development, taking place at Cumberland County Library Head Quarters on May 10, 2014 at 11:45, and featuring North Carolina author and former resident of Spring Lake Jon M Quigley.
The Metrolina Chapter of PMI and Value Transformation LLC are proud to bring Value Transformation LLC to the Cumberland County Library HQ for the first time. The event will discuss the integral role of project management in the development of new products including product development models, project lifecycle and quality assuring activities that are typically associated with new product development.
Tickets can be purchased online at the PMI Metrolina Chapter link: http://pmi-metrolina.com/meetinginfo.php?id=256&ts=1391634988
About NC Metrolina Chapter of the Project Management Institute
The NC Metrolina Chapter is a not-for-profit organization and chapter of PMI, Inc. Our mission is to advance and promote the practice and profession of Project Management among its Chapter members and throughout the Piedmont Triad; supported through the instillation of globally recognized standards, and professional development opportunities.
To learn more about NC Metrolina Chapter of Project Management Institute – Visit: http://www.pmi-metrolina.com/
About Jon M. Quigley
Jon M. Quigley PMP CTFL is a North Carolina resident and principal and founding member of Value Transformation, a product development training and cost improvement organization. Jon has an Engineering Degree from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and two Master Degrees from City University of Seattle where he teaches classes via distance learning.
Jon is a member of SAE, ASQ, AIAG and PMI and he has CTFL certification from ISTQB. He is also the co-author of seven books on a variety of product development and project management (including Agile) topics, as well as product testing and software development management. He is on the Western Carolina University Master in Project Management Advisory Board and Forsyth Technical Community College’s Project Management Advisory Board.