V IE WPOIN TS
OTA CAN TEACH US
They require early buy-in from top to bottom and a near-religious belief in doing processes the right way regardless of
the perceived cost. Note that I say “perceived”—as is true in
many aspects of life, long-term gain is achieved by discipline,
not by taking shortcuts.
Resistance to Change
Following are the two issues I’ve most commonly seen working against a true quality culture in a large organization:
n The appearance of speed is valued over accuracy. Team
members who are supposed to be producing results in a typical large organization are measured primarily by how fast they
can go. This is why the “stop the line” concept was heresy at
GM; the very idea that any employee could halt factory floor
“productivity” over a defect was laughable (even though the
result was a huge pile of broken cars at the other end).
Managers and executives love to get reports that show how
many tasks and milestones have been completed. This concept
of “quantity over quality” is so embedded that the norm for
software projects is to have two to three months of testing and
bug fixes when development is over!
However, Toyota had discovered that taking more time to
get it right the first time and creating a culture that did not
tolerate defective products made the process more predictable
and created a higher quality car.
and end-users. Unfortunately, this creates a culture that can
never be taught to others or used to help an organization
improve, and soon projects become permanently dependent
on these individuals to save at-risk initiatives.
Conversely, there are no heroes in the Toyota manufacturing line. There are only trusted employees who are empowered
to find the best way to do their jobs and create the least waste.
Having one line worker who is much faster and more productive doesn’t help the whole; it just creates bottlenecks. The
right way to produce quality products is for such a person to
teach everyone else, which means making every process highly
visible. A hero culture motivates
employees not to share and to take
sole credit for success. That’s a sure
road to nowhere for an organization.
VOICES ON PROJECT MANAGEMENT
n Heroism is highly rewarded. Every large IT department
has them: gurus, masterminds and heroes. They are the
above-average developers who come in and save the day when
a project is failing by cranking away in a room by themselves
somewhere for hours on end. These are the employees who
receive the accolades and the recognition from management
Slow and Steady
So what does it take to change?
First of all, don’t give up after the
initial project, and don’t expect
everything to be fixed right away.
It took GM 30 years; it’s probably going to take your organization more than a few months.
Second, it takes commitment
to quality. Don’t be tempted by
the short-term gains, unless your
company’s future is on the line.
Recognize that even though it
may seem painfully slow, doing
it right is almost always the best
way in the end. PM
Nate McKie is
cofounder and CTO
Solutions, an IT
consulting firm in
St. Louis, Missouri,
USA. In his role,
he drives the
of the company
and teaches agile
RAISE YOUR VOICE No one knows project management better than you, the practitioners “in the trenches.” So PM Network launched its Voices on Project Management column.
Every month, project managers will share ideas, experiences and opinions on everything from
sustainability to talent management, and all points in between. If you’re interested in contributing,
please send your idea to firstname.lastname@example.org.