Pizza, People, Projects and Processes

isotopp image Kristian Köhntopp -
June 15, 2020
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An older talk from 2 years ago, which for some reason I was not able to find in the blog.

For reasons that do not need exploration at this junction, I had to explain Processes and Process Maturity some time ago, and a colleague asked me to put my thinking into a talk. This talk is likely going to be boring, because you may know most of the subject already. On the other hand, it is good to be on the same page when it comes to models and vocabulary.

Projects, and Deliverables

You want a pizza. What is pizza?

A deliverable: A defined product delivered at a deadline.

Pizza is a project. Projects have a deliverable (a defined product) that is available at a certain deadline, latest. So, “a Margherita within the next 20 minutes” is a project.

Pizza as a project

If you phone up a Pizza, you are outsourcing: You offer money for Pizza as a Service. On the other hand, the shop is delivering Pizza as a Service. How are they able to do that?

Repeated demands and Processes

They need a Pizza Delivery Process to be able to pull that off repeatedly and reliably, at a projected cost and speed. We get processes because we have “A regular demand on an organization, and the organization wants the capability to handle the repeated demand in a predictable fashion.”

Why process?

If something is a one-off, you will not get a process and you should not. Instead, it is “individual heroics.” If something is done a second or a third time, it’s probably time to make it official. You put it on the service catalog, you plan for it, and you create a structure in your org around it.

In the end, it can look like this:

CMMI for services, Service Delivery (pretty much the same as ITIL SD)

CMMI for services 1.3 creates a set of processes interacting to build a structure for service delivery. It looks complicated, but it’s not.

There is the customer, and service delivery delivers. Things may go wrong, and that is an incident such as the oven being on fire. Incident Resolution takes care of that.

The Strategic Service Management looks at how we set up the kitchen, and what goes on the menu — the production process.

Service Development thinks up the way the kitchen is structured and works, and Service Transition makes sure the kitchen is being built and that cooks and servers are trained.

The Incident Resolution in ITIL has deeper structure, looking at larger scale problems that can be extracted from individual services, and interacts with the Service Transition in Change Management.

Nothing here deals with billing, that would be service management — contracts for supplies, subscriptions, catering for events or individual pizza sales, and quality control (complaints).

What we build here could be a single pizzeria, but also a chain that deals with Pizza at a scale.

PDCA: Plan, Do, Check, Act

The ideal outcome of proper process

When you perform a process, you are in a cycle. The stages of the cycle are named differently, depending on your management ideology, but it’s always a planning stage, a doing stage (“a sprint” in Agile), and a stage where you look back at how things work and what we can learn (“a retrospective” in Agile, “Check” in PDCA). Then you implement potential improvements (“Act” in PDCA ).

“Continuous Improvement” goes by many names

No matter what you call these things, these cycles form the bones of a continuous improvement process.

Things to look at when improving

From closest to furthest, looking at product and process.

Checking can be done by continually distancing yourself from the product and the process.

So the closest way of looking at a thing is checking for compliance: Are we following the recipe? If not, maybe we should fix that.

Then you can ask yourself if that recipe is the most efficient way of getting the result. Are there other ways of getting the same outcome, in which we need fewer resources or can do it faster, with fewer people or less training?

Then, is the recipe effective? That is, is the Pizza any good? If not, can we fix that?

And finally, is the process still applicable? There is little point to having a Pizza Process in an Artisanal Burger Shop, is there?

Change is a Meta-Project

After the retrospective, the checking, we have a list of changes. How do we implement them?

That, in itself, is a meta-project: We want to change the recipe (adjust the written documentation), and the minds of the people (training them to follow the new recipe), then test that the change happened. And we want to have done that by $DEADLINE.

So processes spawn meta-projects to change themselves.

Change is a Meta-Project. It has deliverables, and a deadline.

We always need to take all three pillars into account:

There is always an organization, with roles that have defined tasks, skills, and that need staffing.

There are people that staff the roles. They need training to get the skills they need and to understand the specific tasks they are supposed to perform.

Finally, there is the Tech that is supposed to support People to perform their roles. Usually, Tech is the least important thing in a process – it is easy to scale, quicker to adjust than people, and is always a supporting role for people doing the work.

Are we good at processes?

So on a scale of 1-5 , how good are we at a thing?

Suppose you are a Pizzeria, and you are superb at Pizza as a Service. Now somebody comes in and wants Spaghetti. Bologna, of all things. You happen to have the noodles, and you have the sauce, because of the Pizza of the same style you serve.

So, you make it. You just went from 0 to 1: “Not Performed” to “Individual Heroics” – doing a one-off. That was a success!

Getting Noodles as a Service.

The next level would be 2: “Planned & Tracked.” That means it’s on the menu. You buy noodles, train the servers and the cooks (plan performance), you track noodle dish popularity, and customer satisfaction.

Then you get a pasta section on the menu: Level 3 – you have a standard noodle process next to your pizza process, and you derive individual noodle dishes from that by adjusting the noodle process.

Level 4 - “Quantitative Tracking,” is the next step. You start to measure, and compare. Or want to, but that is not possible for one-offs, you need iterations. It’s also not possible for rare things because statistics need large numbers, and you don’t even know what the relevant numbers are when you start out.

It’s also not possible when you are in hyper-growth. Each iteration will be very different from the previous iteration — if you grow 10x, the process to achieve the same deliverables is too different from the previous iterations for meaningful comparison.

Anyway, we now track Pizza and Pasta properly, across all of our outlets in our global Italian Fast Food chain, account for regional differences (“Calzone Hutspot” does seem to be popular only in the Netherlands, and is frowned upon in Italy, for example) and we take that into account.

Investing time and money to get things right

Finally, you get a continuous improvement process that tracks change quantitatively and has the appropriate controls to make change accessible to management.

So where do we invest when we care about improvement?

Where to put money and time for improvement?

We have to sort processes by Criticality, obviously, to make important things better. We also sort by Maturity – no need to invest into things that are already in good shape. And then we decide how much we can and should spend, and where.

Maybe we give up Pizza production, and outsource ourselves, or just pre-products and reduce our capability to assembly.

Must be at least this tall to successfully outsource.

In any case, that will fail, if we and our partner are below level 4, each, in process maturity. Without a shared understanding of the deliverable and the relevant metrics, there is no common understanding of what is being sold or bought, and a lot of pain and finger pointing will be the result.

That is, without a proper process maturity, you need to do stuff yourself, no matter what. You can’t outsource new or rare things because you don’t understand them yet. You can’t outsource things that grow very quickly because they change from growth alone so much that you cannot afford the administrative barrier between business and execution.

And without having a set of well-understood snd tested quantitative metrics that both sides of the outsourcing relationship agree on, it is going to be tough to have a useful discussion about the quality of the services rendered. Only mature and somewhat stagnating businesses can be outsourced.