The Quality Improvement Gardener

As CIO in our company it is my job to make sure that quality improvement is an on-going process for which everyone feels responsible. In this respect I think of myself as a gardener. It is simply impossible for me to personally take care of all quality improvement initiatives. In many cases I am not even the best qualified person to make decisions about processes, roles, tools and templates. Therefore, as a gardener, I simply make sure that improved quality is everyone's concern, and that all stakeholders have equal opportunities to suggest and implement all kinds of improvements to our internal processes.

In a fast growing company like ours there is sometimes so much going on that even I have difficulty keeping track of all the improvements that people are implementing around me. Let me give you an example of the latest successful initiative…

Today, the new concept of issue days has been evaluated with our project managers and team managers. An issue day is a day on which a developer is dedicated to handling maintenance issues, and nothing else. We have found that planning these issue days helps a developer to remain focused on his new projects during the other days of the week. Before the introduction of issue days our developers were often losing valuable time by task switching between deadlines for new projects and show stopper problems on maintenance issues. This could really drive them crazy. Now they can simply ignore any urgent maintenance issues that pop up at the most inconvenient times. They simply point to the guy who is assigned today's issue day.

One of my team managers copied this idea from our system administrators team. My only job was to listen, to comment on it and to approve of it. And I can name quite a number of other initiatives that have been started by other people in our company. Templates, meetings, guidelines, processes… lots of stuff has been contributed by many different employees. If I didn't know any better, it could give me the feeling that all kinds of things are happening beyond my control. But then I remind myself that I'm like a gardener. I cannot do all the growing myself. I simply make sure that there is room for things to grow, and I make sure that anything that is undesirable is weeded out relentlessly. It's like I'm carrying a very big scythe. But I can assure you that it is a very exciting garden to walk around in.

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