Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Example case study of Project Cultural Challenges

In my previous post I talked about the experience I had with learning about other cultures. I found a case study that we used as part of the role play testing, check it out below. Read it carefully, mull over it, reflect...I often work on large-scale projects interacting with a variety of people from different backgrounds and cultures, what I've come to learn (the hard way) is don't settle to your default way-of-working, always be cognisant that you're dealing with people, take pains to ensure your message is getting across in a way that will be well received (not perceived) by the intended recipients....

Case Study: Working with Cultures

Friday, 20 March 2015

My Cultural Orientations Indicator Profile from 2007

I'm continuing with my journey of self reflection by digging through my archives of Psychometric reports, this one goes back the year 2007, where I was operating in the technical space as Senior Software Engineer and moonlighting as a Technical Projects Manager as well.

At that stage of my professional development, I had experienced core software development in embedded systems as well as server-side systems programming. I'd seen the launch of three major Set Top Box projects, worked with a high-performing, self-managing team in the space of VOD / IPTV
streaming products, and was also managing a product portfolio of broadcast headend components as Project Manager.

And at the same time, I was also working on greenhouse, new innovation projects such as the Talking TV.  By then I was interacting with people at all levels of seniority, managers and engineers, and interacting with customer account & delivery managers. I had come across people & customers from various cultures, and had come to appreciate the pace / performance expectations of high-intensity-beat-the-competition-like projects.

So the company I worked with at the time, was a truly global player, and thus felt it necessary that all staff were trained and equipped with some knowledge of working across different cultures. They employed this system "Cultural Navigator" that implemented the "Cultural Orientations Index". Everyone had to register their profile on this system, answer a set of questions, resulting in a personal profile of one's preferences, and operating styles. Training was provided by TMC, where we spent a day or two learning about this assessment tool, and working through some role plays.

This was quite a valuable and powerful learning experience for me. I had used the tool quite often in preparing for interactions, be it for meetings, telecons, or face-to-face intros at new countries. Since almost every employee's profile was available online (company intranet) to compare your profile against others (even a country-by-country difference), as well as having access to to country-specific information (public holidays, type of food, gift preferences, shared interests, etc, etc.)...
Check out the video at the end of this post.

We live in a highly connected and globalised world. In the software business, it is almost impossible to NOT have a team made up of varying cultures. In this day-and-age, you cannot ignore this reality, and to plead ignorance is just not on.

Every company that has cross-country relationships, should implement the Cultural Navigator, it is extremely valuable IMHO!

So, would you like to see my full profile (downloadable) in all its glory :-) ??

Monday, 16 March 2015

QA Manager Job Spec

As a Software & Systems Engineering Management Consultant, I spend a lot of my time helping senior management sort out their department processes, run audits around international benchmarking, teach and coach topics that I'm quite familiar with, help with crafting roles & responsibilities for project & department structures, help set up implementation strategies, and remain on board to see these recommendations & changes through to completion...

Recently, I helped a client rationalise its Quality Assurance (QA) Engineering organisation. I have written about QA/Testing in the past, most of those posts revolve around the experiences from this particular client. You can check out these two resources for my background & knowledge of the Quality Engineering QA/QC disciplines:

One of the triggers that drove this client to rethink its QA structure was some work that I did last year, around benchmarking what other organisations do in similar projects, and the outcome from that investigation identified an overload in the QA space, with lots of teams doing similar activities, resulting in duplication. The ratio of QA-to-Developers seemed unnaturally high. I personally knew this from the very beginning, but had to learn the hard way of taking a company through its own journey of self-discovery, that whilst an expert might see flaws and holes on day one, the customer is usually so set in its ways-of-working, that they are blinded by the inefficiencies because the projects do deliver anyway.

Anyway, I helped identify a need for a QA Manager, and helped create a job specification around this - which is what I'd like to share with you, in case you are looking for something similar. In my view, this is still a journey, the QA manager maybe an interim step, as an improvement to embedding some quality disciplines within the organisation, my end goal however, is to lead this client to a Lean Mindset, which takes the best of Agile/Lean processes, and drives quality engineering principles & disciplines right up the value chain, to the source - which is around architecture, design & development...we're not yet ready for that yet, so a QA Manager intervention is as good-a-starting-point-as-any....

P.S. My source of info for drawing up this job spec was the IEEE SWEBOK (I once studied the IEEE CSDP although didn't want to write the exam because I'm currently against any form of certifications, although I'm still a member of IEEE & ACM) as well as my own previous job experience...




[THE COMPANY] has rationalized its various Testing roles in the department and has introduced a new role focused on driving Software Quality Assurance Practice across the business. The reporting department line (CEQA) is overall responsible for applying Software Quality Management (SQM) that applies to all perspectives of decoder software processes, products and resources. SQM defines processes, process owners, and requirements for those processes, measurements of the process and its outputs, and feedback channels.

SQM processes consist of many activities. Specifically, with respect to [THE COMPANY], this is broken down into the following areas:
  • Software / System Quality Assurance
  • Software & Systems Testing (Quality Control / QC)
  • Automation Tools & Methods
  • Real-world home testing (Field trials)
Collectively, the above areas are separate lines reporting to an overall Head: Quality. These SQM streams however are interconnected and share the underlying foundation of quality principles, which all these groups need to adhere.

This role is about a Quality Assurance Manager position, which is based on three pillars:
  • Measurement & Metrics
  • Standards, Reviews & Audits
  • Project-based role as QA Program Manager / QA Director

SQA processes provide assurance that the software products and processes in the project life cycle conform to their specified requirements by planning, enacting, and performing a set of activities to provide adequate confidence that quality is being built into the software at all levels of the software development lifecycle (SDLC).
The role of SQA with respect to process is to ensure that planned processes are appropriate and later implemented according to plan, and that relevant measurement processes are provided to the organization.
The SQA plan defines the means that will be used to ensure that software developed for a specific product satisfies the user's requirements and is of the highest quality possible within project & business constraints.
SQA takes into account the culture of the development teams, identifies processes, standards and practices, and conventions governing the project, highlighting how they will be checked and monitored to ensure adequacy, compliance, and ultimately the decision that the product is fit-for-purpose from a QA standpoint (checks and balances).
SQA also identifies measures, statistical techniques, quality metrics including procedures for problem reporting and corrective action, techniques & methods including tools, training, reporting & relevant documentation.
SQA also contributes to defining acceptance criteria, as well as reporting and management activities which are critical to software quality.
SQA will also contain a review and audit facility that may involve, but not be limited to the following areas: Management reviews, Technical reviews, Inspections, Walk-throughs & Audits. This can only be implemented once the department has reached a level of maturity and stability of processes (i.e. standards adherence) that have proven to deliver business value, such that it becomes the charter & practice of all projects going forward, and hence warrants a review & audit activity.


Friday, 13 March 2015

I was once an ESTJ

I am continuing to dig through my records of psychometric & personality test reports, this one goes back to when I was a Software Engineer of three years, I'd just lost my job through redundancy, Ireland was going through some pretty bad times, and I was faced with a lot of uncertainty: do I return back home to South Africa, find a job in Ireland, or try my hand in the UK?? 

As part of the redundancy package, included a one week intense course on Career Planning, CV/Resume writing, Video Interviews and Personality testing. At the time, this would have been my second experience with personality tests, the first was right after university, where I showed all signs of an analytical, thinking, careful engineer. In the two years since, I had left my home country, settled in a brand new world, got to meet new cultures, and see a different side of software engineering - that it changed my outlook of life and work quite a bit.

I strongly feel that a person is on a path to discovery, despite being born with certain traits, that life and experiences will change a person's outlook (although we're told that our real core tenets are what we born with, and fall back to these by instinct or default), thus I have some reservations with these personality tests, because I just don't like being placed in a box. I prefer to create my own path, and adapt to the situations as needed. However, these tests are interesting, and useful to trigger one to reflect...

So this goes back to 2002, thirteen years ago, when I did the Myers-Briggs profile questionnaire, here's the results of that time:
In 2002, I showed signs of ESTJ

So looking back almost thirteen years ago, it's interesting to note that I remained a Software Engineer for another four years, before breaking out into leadership roles as development project manager, senior project manager, and more recently senior program & technical manager.

However, I am no longer that traditional and conservative, as I'm constantly learning and adapting my processes, style and working tool-set, although I do sometimes fall-back to my own traditions that are known to work, deliver value...

I am still quite the organisational, control freak...everything has it's place. I'm so glad that it's actually a Lean discipline to keep the workspace organised, clean & efficient :-)