February 22, 2008

Is your team Attitude : what are you going to do next?

When you're by the cliff - it's not how you got there that matters, it's what you do next! Look at this great add from accenture, this is what got me thinking about this saying again. When a situation gets tough, the org has to focus on how to get out of there as fast and with as much quality as possible given the situation. Sometimes people's attitude is totally wrong in this type of situation. Some managers will start asking and drilling the people involved for answers as to why we're there. Don't get me wrong we have to do this, but not at that time, their timing is off. What matters is what you do next, as the crisis manager what is available now to you in the form of people, processes, tools to transform the situation into a successful outcome. No amount of how the hell did we get there is going to help.

This picture from Accenture has helped jell a concept I was wrestling with a bit. I was trying to articulate clearly what Process Improvement's role is for my team vs Product Engineering Delivery. Following on the train of thoughts above, Process Improvements is the analysis of how you got there in the first place, and what an organization must make sure to do in the future to successfully avoid that situation. So when the post-morterm time comes, and not one minute before, for a given project that could have been easier execution wise the process improvement people will be drilling to find answers and devise a better way. Not one minute before, because it would be keeping the team from focusing on the problem at hand and waste precious cycles on how to resolve it.

I remember a scene from apollo 13 when they realize the mission is going really bad, the only outcome the team was looking at was "How do we bring the crew back alive and well", here are the facts, so much oxygen, electricity etc... and here are the tools in the shuttle, and here are the skills of the people, "get me a plan!". They didn't start analyzing what was going and putting conclusions and finger pointing, they went to solve the problem to salvage the mission. I'm sure when they got back to earth they did a post morterm of what went wrong so that the next crew would not go through the same ordeal.

So Product Engineering team is about the game going on now, and the process improvement team is the coach reviewing the game tape and understanding the performance so that it can be improved for the next game. It's not in the middle of a game that one start practicing a new shot.

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