I recently had a phone call from the acquisition editor at Taylor and Francis, John Wyzalek. He informed me that a book we wrote a couple of years back (Total Quality Management for Project Management), is being used at Manchester Metropolitan University, and gave me the contact information of the lady creating and teaching the class, Maria. I have had a few calls with Maria Kapsali since then that have been very interesting.
We discussed how the Total Quality Management tools can help us avoid deluding ourselves. However, at least equally important if not more so, is having a team come to some common understanding of what is being witnessed. The discussion pointed us to how to evoke ideas of the source of some of the issues being witnessed. For example, we explored starting with the brainstorming tool often associated with Total Quality Management, the Ishikawa Diagram or fishbone diagram. The students had a project associated with the coursework, and the Ishikawa exercise is to be directed at that project would allow the students to discover areas of potential concerns within the project.
I had ruminated with Tom Cagley on how to encourage cross exploration of the students, and we ended up discussing Planning Poker. Those of you that have been around us long know we have frequent discussions with Tom Cagley for his SPAMCast and the thought of kicking ideas around with him would be productive, and it was. I wanted to find a way to use these cards to demonstrate what cannot be readily seen by each of the students, those unvoiced assumptions and unknown mental models. I have used planning poker quite a few times in team interactions and in classes as an estimating technique, but more than that, a technique for uncovering underlying thoughts and assumptions, or perhaps as Peter Senge referred to it as mental models. Left unexposed, there is no way to challenged or critiqued, or otherwise assess veracity. We do not know what others truly think, or how they arrive at the conclusions they do unless we get the thinking out in the open. The discussion with Tom was very productive, and we thought exploration of the severity or probability of those items uncovered via the Ishikawa exploration. In this way, the students will not only learn how to use the tools, but also learn the importance of those things that cannot be easily seen or measured, our team mates thinking and why.
As important as measurements and the Total Quality Management tools are, it is even more important to understand why we, all of our team members, think they way they do, how did the arrive at their perspective, and is it an accurate view. With a diversity perspective, we learn that a square is in fact a box or a circle is a sphere. This is the benefit of diversity of thought, but we benefit from this only when we encourage and take time to understand and explore this diversity.Tags: business, project management, Quality, risk management, success, TQM