Monday, October 11, 2021

Crafting a Quality Organization Through POC’s (#PNSQC2021 Live Blog)


A talk with someone from The Pokemon Company?! I'M IN!!! :). I'm not sure I even care what the talk is about (LOL!).

Okay, no, that's not true, but I will confess that the nature of the company did sway me considerably to attend, so well played, Paul Grimes. Well played :).

So what's the purpose of this talk? I'm going to literally borrow from the description on the PNSQC site to set the stage here:

"Organizations often make changes without a way to evaluate if they are getting the results they want. This can be true when incorporating a new tool, making changes to communication routines, or changing management structure.

The Product quality and Insights team at the Pokemon company international uses Proof of Concepts (POC’s) direct changes we want to make. Anyone on the team can write up a POC proposal for an idea they believe will make the team better. The proposal includes what they want to change, how long the POC will take, and what questions the submitter hopes to answer. The POC is reviewed and refined to determine the criteria for success. If accepted the POC is then executed and evaluated and if successful the change is adopted."

Ultimately, a Proof of Concept (POC) takes a hypothetical idea and puts it into practice so it can be interacted with and operated. The key here is a POC is a chance to experiment before committing. It also allows people to see if the idea will actually work or if it may actually work.

The key here is that we are already pretty familiar with technical POCs. We may not be as familiar with Cultural POC's (New to Paul and honestly, new to me :) ). this is an interesting idea in that instead of focusing on the progress of tasks, it focuses on the goals and progress of people. The key to this is reflection, goals, and tasks. Thinking about it, it does make sense from a familial or relationship perspective, where we would try an experiment to see if a potential change might be beneficial before absolutely committing to it. Why wouldn't we consider it for the corporate and cultural aspects of a company?

One of the obvious questions about Cultural POC's is that they seem to be a lot more "squishy" compared to a Technical POC. That doesn't mean that it can't be done but it does mean it will have some definitely different aspects.

A POC has five specific elements:

  • Description
  • Purpose
  • Timeline
  • Hypotheses
  • Measurement

I like this template and explanation as it makes it relatively easy to get a handle on what the POC is meant to be for, what the benefit is, how long the POC will run, and to see if the hypotheses we started with actually holds up as the process runs its course.

Okay, so what's an example of a Cultural POC? evaluating a tool might be seen as a Technical POC. Employing Mobbing as a programming and testing effort would be a Cultural POC. Odds are, if we just said "we are going to do mobbing starting in November" we might be setting ourselves up for failure. Instead, perhaps we might want to approach this from:

"We've seen that mobbing brings a fair amount of increased communication and better software quality outcomes. As an experiment, during the Month of November, we will be devoting Wednesdays to practice the mobbing concept and see if this helps us with our development and testing efforts. We will run this for the month of November and December, and then we will regroup and see if this is indeed beneficial or if it's not something we want to continue exploring."

The benefit to this approach as described is that it's not all-or-nothing. It's time-bounded. It allows for people to work in a more traditional way for several days and it allows for an experiment to see if the new approach will be beneficial. It's boxed on a single day a week so that it can be planned for, executed, and reflected on in a small experiment approach rather than committing whole-hog and then it becoming a new normal with no reflection or considering if it actually made sense.

I agree with Paul that  Cultural POC's should be small and focused efforts. they shouldn't be all-encompassing and they probably shouldn't be handled a bunch at a time. POC's should probably be handled one at a time to see how they fit into an organization and if they will ultimately be worth considering beyond their POC period. Also, I think that POC's are better when formed from the ground up rather than dictated from the top down. that's not to say that Cultural POC's can't be proposed from the top but I'd guess the really effective ones are going to bubble up from the people doing the actual work.

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