Improving The Production Chain: Technology, Process and PeopleIn order for a project to be successful, one may think that a good technology and a well chosen process will be enough to guarantee success. How many of these projects have we been in and still deliver late and well beyond budget? If good technology and process aren’t enough then, what is missing?

In a project, the most important element is the human part. People are forming the third side of the project triangle. To manipulate the chosen technology and to respect the selected process, you need human team members. If they don’t work well together, if they do not respect each other or if they do not target the same objective, the project is doomed.

Respecting and trusting co-workers is essential. In case of stress, instead of blaming the others for the troubles we face, we tend to collaborate and cooperate. How do we create such positive context? The answer is in knowing the others and one-self better.

In my previous articles, I have introduced the importance of cross-cultural communication (see Develop magazine #114) and the benefit of understanding what makes the others different and how to leverage on that difference. Somehow we can approach the variety of functions within the team with the same spirit. Indeed, we do not count anymore the number of times we have heard things such as: “The XXX workers know nothing about a project, look at the rubbish they produce!” Replace XXX by “Testers”, “Managers”, “Developers”, “Designers”, etc. Whoever is not in your seat are mostly incompetent and almost a nuisance. In a way, it is a miracle that the project is happening and “you” are at the centre of that success.

Of course, the reality of a project is totally different. Everyone is trying his/her best to make the project happen. No-one is waking up in the morning with a devilish smile and the intention to ruin the project! So, how is that? This is the result of a lack of empathy when it comes to others’ jobs. To achieve empathy we need to build respect and then trust. How can we achieve that?

This situation is rather common on project and we can approach it with several tools. I will introduce one of them:
The objective is to go through the team and have the team members experience the others’ jobs. Beware of the word “experience”, I do mean it. Talking forever about others’ difficulties is often vain. Only by feeling the pain in your “flesh” you will accept and remember that the others also do a tough job. To do so, you need to organise workshops around themes such as “Coding from specifications”, “Writing specification”, “Producing a technical architecture”, “Running a team meeting for agreement”, etc. During these workshops, you have to put the staff in front of the challenges that are the daily bread and butter of a chosen role and have them try to do it themselves. Some will say that you cannot ask people to feel what a developer does if you are not a developer or what a tester or designer does. This is not true. It is always possible to do so. Do not forget that your staff is intelligent, educated, experienced and most of the time keen to do well. They can definitely get it if put in the right situation. In essence, every role in the project is about problem solving. Only the tools, the context and the possible specific talent are different. But in all cases, nothing stops you from experiencing someone else’s job, at least to the point that is calling for respect. I have done it several times for several job positions and not only it is possible but it does marvels. People get out of such workshops with the right understanding and therefore a new born respect for the others. How often did I hear for instance “But to do this you would need such and such!” when such and such is only partially available and this partial info is the essence of the challenge. If you happen to be the very person providing that information, you will try harder next time and more importantly you will not complain when you are asked by your co-workers to flesh out your work, complete your information, explain the assumptions, etc. In a word, you have created “respect”. By doing so, you have totally changed the nature of your staff relationship for the good. You are on a path of money saving and respected deadlines!