Thursday, April 29, 2010

I am Mad as Hell and I am not Going to Take it Anymore!!!

Has the title of this blog gotten your attention? The title is a key line from the 1976 movie "Network" where the news anchor gets a large portion of the population yelling this from their windows to vent frustration with things. So what does this movie have to do with the chip business? Read on to find out how the famous line from this movie forms a strategy that will guide you towards making a difference in your work situation.

The level of frustration I feel on all levels of the semiconductor new product organizations are at an all time high. It's pent up, steaming and being held close to the chest; further weakening the possibility for solutions. Issues are being aired around the lunch table with great ease, plausible solutions are being generated and then people go back to work, sitting silently in the great wasteland of sameness!

Here's the deal. Things are exactly the way you tolerate them to be. There is a lot of acceptance of clearly negative sources of impact going on, and that's the problem at large. I read a book review in the newspaper paper this past week titled "Your kids are your own fault" by Larry Winget. I have not read the book, only the synopsis. Interestingly, this title made me think long and hard about the situation with project execution, outsourcing and the working climate we have today in the semi industry. Fact - we are personally responsible for creating and maintaining our work situation as it is today.

If something is impacting your ability to perform your tasks and it's ticking you off, own it as your problem to be resolved and take the initiative to make it go away! Sorry people, but that's the only way things are going to change for you. Stop waiting for someone else to notice how something is impacting your ability to execute and fix it for you. It's just not going to happen that way, so stop with the empty whining and take action. I have talked with a lot of people on new product teams and the way I see it is there are a lot of them waiting for someone to remove a barrier that is personally impacting them.

Everyone wishes things were different. The business manager wishes new products would meet expectations for delivery timing, quality and functionality - just be predictable. Designers wish the tools and flows gave them what they needed, always. The test people want to be involved earlier in products. The product people wish designers would communicate better. The project manager wishes people would do what they said they would do. The wish list goes on and on. What's on your list?

Get mad, mad as hell about what's causing you grief on projects. Feel the impact of the problem on your activities and the sleep you lose over it. Stop accepting the situation as it is, you don't need to take it anymore. Now here's the big step - take that frustration burning within and own the source of it. Make it your personal objective to eliminate it as a source of aggravation. Stop falling into the sameness trap of making sure the problem is not yours by creating justification to transfer ownership; remember you are mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. This one is yours!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

I want things to be Different, but I don’t want to Change

Everyone has something they would like to see different, some aspect of the development process that they view is causing continuous disruption in new product releases. Reflect on your businesses ability to react to near term project execution crisis. Like most, the ability to resolve an immediate roadblock that is impacting a specific project is quite impressive. The team rallies to action in a high-energy fashion, makes a decision and moves on to a solution very quickly.

Now consider an issue that is systemic in nature, in that it’s omnipresent and has the ability to disrupt a wide range of projects. How’s the energy for resolution in this situation? I am sure it lacks the vigor that is observed for a project specific emergency. The persistent systemic execution barriers routinely take a back seat to the highly visible, project specific issues that crop up and block a project. Interestingly, the more pervasive problems are generally much more of an execution hindrance than the high intensity, bang on the table and fix it now project glitches that demand immediate solutions.

There is an interesting dynamic going on between these two different scenarios. In the case of a project specific problem, the team only needs a specific one-time solution to a highly visible problem; a perceived permanent operational change is not expected. For systemic execution problems the issues tend to be insidious and behind the scenes, often not displaying an obvious specific project related fire to be put out. Operational change is assumed to be the solution in this situation.

A new product team rallies to high profile fires very well, a concept that could be leveraged to deal with the more pervasive issues; the ones that are subtly, although more significantly impacting project execution. Does that mean solutions to the systemic issues are as close as setting them ablaze, thereby attaining much needed attention? That’s partially true with one very important caveat to consider. Solutions to systemic execution blockages will also involve “changes” in core processes and procedures, something that is rare in dealing with project specific issues. Individuals generally repel change, unless the change is elsewhere and will not directly impact them. Where are you and your organization with respect to seeking, owning and accepting real change?

Here is the most important concept when dealing with change. Most individuals will internally believe in the statement “I want things to be different, but I don’t want to change.” This is a stark reality that must be considered and mitigated. Once the realization of a potential personal change takes place, individuals will pull back and solution energy will fade. This fact leaves most organizations trapped in a mode of “tweaking” their new product development process, with results that provide unimpressive incremental improvements.

Where dramatic improvement to new product time to revenue is an expectation, real change is the only enabler that will produce this level of results. This is possible only when organizations stop fooling themselves that they can “tweak” their way to significantly better new product revenue and begin a grass roots assault on the “historic” ways of doing things. Anything less is a smoke screen to protect individuals while placing the organization at risk of a slide towards extinction. Terminal sameness can be successfully reversed, if properly diagnosed and treated in time.