Hi All,

Yep, long one, but your 'peer' review and feedback would be most welcomed.

My working environment is odd frankly. Having been in Manufacturing quality the software testing in this new-to-us environment was a shock.

The QA team test, quality activities around processes aren't controlled by QA.. you maybe getting the picture.

My repsonse to my manager was to 'put something together' that would help explain, it did. Nothing earth shattering but I hope at least interesting [img]images/icons/smile.gif[/img]

Introducing Quality

Many businesses desire a quality culture but this only happens when there is buy-in from management. Buy-in only happens when ignorance of quality is educated out of the business. However, the Quality transformation only happens when individuals are part of the process.
<font size="2" face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica">The problem with Quality.
Most Quality practitioners, and certainly most quality managers, experience difficulty with the lack of quality thinking within the businesses they work with. While often asked to bring about cultural changes the higher management are of the opinion quality is some kind of silver bullet that can be fired at the problems they want resolving. Quality practitioners can often find themselves in the position of not only having to communicate quality matters to management, as is their role, but also provide a form of training and education to the essentially ignorant but willing masses.

The difficulty here is that the practitioner states the same message over and over with no apparent affect. Add to this the common occurrence of other business managers understanding quality proposals incompletely or in abstract, frustrating the practitioner as the quality centric activity is handed to some other team. Handed to the team often in ignorance of how this would normally be done, though often with good intentions.

A lack of Quality direction.
Unlike more mature industries, such as electronics or construction, software is still approached without quality as a core value, itís a nice to have, a bolt on. There are quality activities of course but still with the perception that it is a benefit, not an absolute necessity. As Deming famously stated the way it should be, Ďquality as the fabric (of the business), not part of ití.

The job of the quality practitioner is to provide the support and guidance to the desired quality transformation, so often called for by management and investors. Yet providing overall direction of this transformation is not the role of a single manger or practitioner in a single area of quality, thatís the role of a Director. To direct the various specialisations of the quality profession and the resources and activities of the business to effect the transformation.

Itís worryingly common for software houses to have no Quality Director, in any other industry of this size that would be almost unheard of. This lack of quality direction clearly shows the level of immaturity of the industry from a business perspective.

Training for quality.
To put this in context, imagine you asked your quality team to deliver testing on a new technology your software development team had started using. How can they? They're essentially clueless as to what Ďití even 'is' let alone what possible testing might be needed for whatever this thing was made of.

How then does the quality practitioner communicate effectively with others if, for want of better words, they haven't got a clue? Also, how can these managers ask for quality issues to be resolved if they don't actually understand the ways they can be resolved or improved? This is just the provision of perhaps black box and white box testing, consider this in relation to quality processes and practices and you have a rather dire situation.

Managers would all be well served by attending a course such as those offered by organisations such as Lloyds Register for Quality Assurance*. A one day course that could be used as a foundation for non-quality managers quality education will provide invaluable.

Buy-in or donít bother.
It would be safe to say that a desired quality transformation within business fails for one key reason - a lack of management buy-in. A lack of understanding by management, a continuance on looking for the Silver Bullet solution and a failure to realise and support Ďquality as the fabric, not part of ití.

Without buy-in from management, from office floor to board, quality initiatives will never bring the desired transformation, period. This is seen so many times that the more conscientious certification bodies tell their practitioners to pull out of a company if that is the culture.

It may seem all-or-nothing, but in a few months the processes and practices would not be supported and fall apart, then all things quality start getting tarnished with the perception that it is a waste of effort and resource. Who hasnít worked someplace where this has happened?

Youíve got the Buy-in, now get the processes.
Thereís another hurdle for the quality manger or practitioner and thatís the incorrect use of project management in bringing about this quality transformation. Now thatís not the practice, itís the department. Look through any of the popular quality forums and hereís your next common complaint. The project management team are tasked with bringing about the transformation, just when you thought it was looking better!

Letís get something clear however, without project management your quality centric transformation activities will fail. Processes and their introduction on a departmental or business scale are projects. However, they are not projects in the usual sense, were not delivering a product here, itís not just about risks to delivery or effective resourcing.

The introduction, ongoing use and development of quality thinking, activities and processes that make up this transformation can't be implemented based on Project Management principles alone, only Quality Management principles. The very existence of the two fields of practice and more importantly their combined use demonstrates this to be the case.

An entire sector of the quality practice is dedicated to processes or more correctly, Quality Management Systems, because it requires a specific approach and skill set. A process is a living, evolving part of the business and an individuals working day, it doesnít end with Ďdeliveryí and it wonít be delivered without effective project management!

Just enough process, lotís of consultation.
Processes are just-right when employees read them and feel they knew it anyway. This is the key to effective processes. Letís emphasise that again. You want to do all the hard work and get to a point where those involved in the processes are so informed and in-tune that they will most likely start telling you how to improve quality. Processes must reflect what people actually do, not what we hope they will do or would like.

If you want process users to understand the processes, to adhere to them and develop them in the future then they must be involved at every stage of the transformation. Making the quality transformation real and Ďpart of the fabricí is the reason there must be consultation with the process users.

Phases of introduction
To introduce processes correctly there are some key phases, important to note that the last phase should never actually 'end':

Phase 1: Assessment - where are we now, what have we already got?
Phase 2: Planning - How, who, when?
Phase 3: Upgrading (redesigning) - integrate existing processes
Phase 4: Implementation - communicate and adhere
Phase 5: Auditing - are they still working, being used and even relevant?
Phase 6: Continuous Improvement - develop and evolve the processes

∑ How long these phases last depends on the complexity of the processes.
∑ The complexity of the processes depends on the level of control over actual or perceived risks or the activities the process covers.
∑ The level of control required will dictate how much paperwork is needed in defining that control. The thing most people worry about and rightly so!

Phase 6 never ends as you will need to have an iterative cycle of Ďplan-do-check-actí or your preferred model, to ensure that the QMS is revisited to maintain relevancy against the reality of the business it applies to.

Remember, the key here is always try to have as little control as possible. Never create documents or processes just because it seems a good idea, ask what the benefit is. 'Minimum control, minimum documentation', that's the best way to have an understandable and easily maintainable Quality Management System that is going to remain relevant to everyone using it.

A QMS, one step at a time.
After Phase 1 assessment you will have identified a large amount of work and if you havenít already, get project management involved. A complete business wide transformation requires their skills and knowledge. Theyíre not quality practitioners and youíre not a project manager so get the right skills in the right place.

To implement a QMS pick a business area that you can realistically work with. This may not sound like the wide transformation the business called for but donít forget Phase 4, itís about communication. With your allies in project management deliver the overall plan one step at a time. Create a way for the business to have greater confidence in each step and improve the way the business works and thinks to levels not seen before.

Closing Notes
Quality assurance is a complex and multi faceted profession and itís up to quality managers and practitioners to ensure this is understood by all industries, not just software development. Likewise business must also afford it the commitment required to see the full benefits of from itís desired Quality Transformation.

Blooming Quality Luddites! [img]images/icons/tongue.gif[/img]