Thursday, April 17, 2008

Challenges With SEPG Staffing

Amir Shahzad Khan posted these two fairly realistic scenarios to the CMMI discussion group.

Scenario 1
We have resources that are on the bench waiting to start a new project and/or new billable work. We have decided to draw on this pool of idle resources to staff the SEPG and the ML 3 process teams. Each person has accepted these new responsibilities and they are working their assigned SEPG tasks. Suddenly, there is new billable work or a new project starts. Now management reassigns these resources that were on the bench to the new work leaving their assigned SEPG tasks incomplete, severely impacting the SEPG schedule. How to do tackle this kind of situation?

Scenario 2
People are selected from the organization to staff the SEPG. They are assigned to Process Areas that match their area of expertise. However, most people are reluctant to work on their assigned SEPG tasks and they either don’t deliver or deliver much less than expected, which impacts the SEPG schedule. The primary reason of their reluctance to deliver is that they don’t consider their assigned SEPG tasks as their core area of responsibility. Since the SEPG support will not affect their performance appraisal they don’t take it seriously. They only receive verbal appreciation. What kind of reward or penalty can be introduced in this regard so that people deliver what they have committed?

What is described in both scenarios is a serious lack of Management Commitment to process improvement, the SEPG, and the CMMI. Lack of Management Commitment is your worst enemy and will effectively kill all of your efforts, despite your best intentions. What is necessary is for management at ALL levels in the organization to actively support these initiatives, not just pay lip service.

Scenario One
First off it is a bad idea to assign people on the bench some SEPG “busy work” just to keep them occupied until a billing opportunity comes along. You should have recognized this problem as one of your major risks in the Process Improvement Plan and defined a Risk Mitigation strategy to use when people are reassigned and removed from their SEPG duties. The SEPG should report these issues to the Management Steering Group (MSG), who should be held accountable for allowing key SEPG resources to be reassigned. If these resources are also key people for billable work, they should have never been assigned to the SEPG. Instead they could be considered as Subject Matter Experts that can be called upon from time to time to consult with the SEPG. There should be a core set of dedicated people on the SEPG. Others who have “signed up” to work on the SEPG should be allowed by management to support the meetings, even if they have been reassigned. Look at the IPPD practices in OPD and IPM for guidance on establishing these types of management mechanisms.

Scenario Two
This scenario sounds like management has not given clear direction as to the importance of the SEPG to its members and the organization as a whole. If management doesn’t clearly think that the SEPG is important, then why should anyone else? The Process Improvement Plan should have identified this problem as a major risk as well. If someone has been assigned to the SEPG, their SEPG role should be part of their job and they should be held accountable for their performance of their assigned duties. The SEPG is effectively the project team and the MSG the project manager. The MSG should be taking a major role in reviewing the progress to the plan and resolving issues in both scenarios.

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