What quality programs, formal or informal, have you experienced in your work? How well do you feel they were implemented? What was the level of management involvement? If you have not experienced working in such an environment, what would you look for to determine whether a company’s quality program was working?
I have had experience with 2 quality programs as part of my career in the IT industry.
ISO 9001 implementation (a marketing tool): I was exposed to this Quality program while working with my previous employer. I had chance to be a part of program implementation and see it in action for the forthcoming projects. The company was into software services for share markets and insurance sector. The company also had capabilities to act as the prime data provider of financial data of companies. The company wanted to diversify its growth into foreign markets. ISO 9001 certification was a marketing strategy.
The CEO had good relations with the KPMG group and he bought in consultants for an initial audit. The greatest impact was (something I still remember as black Mondays) firing of employees on Mondays which lasted for 2 months – about 25 employees were fired (total employee size was around 150). The top management (including project managers) were very keen to implement the program somehow to gain marketing power. As a developer, I was exposed to quality audits, which was done every week to make sure that each phase of program was implemented successfully. As I remember, all such audits were just to confirm to the KPMG guidelines and pass the audit and get the certification. The PMs and top management were also keen to make it happen, since they could earn certification in ISO 9001 implementation.
So, I think, it was not targeted to instill quality framework into organizational culture, but as a pure marketing tool. There was obviously total change in the day to day working procedure, but I still do not think there was any effect on continuous process improvement within the company. One major setback for the company was that some of the reliable PMs and top management people moved to other companies with the certification that they earned (it was truly a personal marketing strategy for them too). The company was not able to realize its set goals (getting more projects overseas) and the whole program has already incurred a huge amount for the investors and they stopped capital flow. The company was in a real bad shape by now. The CEO asked all top earning officials to resign and had to move office to a smaller square footage.
Six Sigma (blended with the tailor made PM process): Another employer uses Six Sigma methodology as the base for its in-house PM and SDLC process. The methodology was identified by the PMO director who has vast experience with working on various process improvement models. It was only recently that the PMO was created and the tailor made process methodology is put into practice. I guess, the reason for opting Six Sigma might be company’s reliance on statistical analysis (health insurance sector) and its attention to continuous process improvement and BPR (introduction of new products that points to process redesign).
I have just started working on the new methodology (mostly SDLC specific stages, since I am in the development team) and I have a lot to learn in the long run to fully understand and appreciate how this methodology actually leads to creating quality in organization’s work culture. From the projects that I am a part of so far, I can see exceptional improvements in the overall PM phases (since all process are defined and controlled by formal PM processes) in terms of planning, tracking and controlling quality.