4 Steps CIOs Need To Take To Make Their Process Improvement Projects Successful

April 26, 2012 by  Filed under: Management 

Pity the poor CIOs who gets the idea that what his IT department needs to do this year is to implement a process improvement project. It’s not that these types of projects are a bad thing to do, it’s just that all too often they don’t actually work out. Well, that was before we had a chance to talk about what CIOs need to do in order to make this a good use of everyone’s time…

Why Process Improvement Projects Don’t Work Most Of The Time

There are many reasons why IT process improvement programs that start off with such high hopes never seem to bear any fruit. There always seems to be a big kick off at which the CIO tells everyone just how important this project is to both the IT department as well as the company. It’s soon after that when things start to go downhill…

After a few initial success, the process improvement program continues on. The problem is that it will have been going on for so long that now folks start to get distracted. The very definition of information technology has to do with change and we all stop paying attention when something has been going on for too long. Other tasks start to creep in around the edges and steal their time away.

The outside experts whom the CIO brought in to help the team implement the Six Sigma or whatever program now move on to other things. The team keeps moving on, but their way forward is no longer clear because they now lack the expert guidance.

IT Managers are no longer so open to having their team members spend so much time on this other project. Instead, they start pushing to have their staff complete their “day job” before they spend time on the “special project”. When it becomes clear the process improvement work won’t be showing up on anyone’s year-end-evaluation, the game is pretty much over and the project dies a quiet death.

4 Steps CIOs Need To Take In Order To Have A Successful Process Improvement Project

Things don’t have to turn out this way. It actually is possible for an IT department to run a successful process improvement project – in fact the very importance of information technology means that we need to be able to keep getting better and this type of project is a great way to make that happen.

In order to make this type of project yield results, researcher Satya Chakravorty has uncovered four things that CIOs need to do to prevent a process improvement disaster from happening:

  1. Keep The Pros: No matter what methodology the CIO decides to use to implement the process improvement, outside experts are always brought in. This is a great move. However, all too often the outside experts are dismissed too early. This leaves the IT teams adrift and unsure how to continue. Keep the experts around until the project is completed.
  2. Make Everyone Responsible: a process improvement project will only succeed if everyone in the IT department is working on it. If you are going to ask everyone to spend that much time working on something, then you need to make sure that the project is a part of everyone’s performance appraisal otherwise you’ll be forcing them to make a decision about what to work on.
  3. Not Too Big, Not Too Long: Within IT we have a bad habit of creating large teams to tackle problems. This time around, don’t do that. Instead, limit the size of individual teams to only 6-9 members. Likewise, you need to limit how long each part of the project takes. A section should be able to be completed within 6-8 weeks.
  4. Be Involved: Senior IT executives are busy, but they need to make time to get involved in the process improvement program. Just “supporting” the program or sitting through status updates is not enough. They need to be contributing their suggestions based on their experiences.

What All Of This Means For You

Any IT process improvement program represents a significant investment of time, energy, and capital for a CIO. This means that as long as you are going to make the investment, then you had darn well better make sure that the project is going to be successful.

To make this happen, the IT sector requires that CIOs do the following things: improvement experts need to stay involved for extended periods of time. Project success needs to be a part of every IT member’s annual performance appraisal. Process improvement team sizes must be restricted to 6-9 members and timelines must be no longer than 8 weeks. Finally, direct IT executive involvement is required at all times.

Taking the time to do a process improvement project correctly can make all of the difference in the world. These are hard projects to do. A CIO that can complete one successfully will have finally shown the company what the true value of the IT department is.

Dr. Jim Anderson

Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Dr. Jim Anderson has spent over 20 years consulting with a wide variety of IT firms from the very big to the very small. He provides you with his insights into the leadership needed to combine the separate worlds of business and IT strategy. His guidance offers hope to firms everywhere who are struggling with this challenge.

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