Failure to do Configuration Management Properly and Corrective Action

By Steve Easterbrook, CMPIC LLC

What is your workplace like?

Are people moseying down the hallways, smiling and whistling “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” or do you have a lot of corrective action meetings and company-funded stress management classes?

Even companies that have the best products and the best employees might still be in the corrective action mode.

In many environments, employees spend a significant portion of their workday “fighting fires”. Unfortunately, many organizations believe that putting out fires is continuous improvement. It is not. It is an indication that the organization is in the corrective action mode, and typically corrective action is a symptom of poor CM or individuals failing to adhere to good CM processes.

Imagine being in the forestry business. To remain in business, you must cut your forest for lumber, sell your product, and plant new trees for future production. This is continuous improvement.

But imagine your company’s forest is always on fire. How are you going to find the time to make robust improvements given your situation? This is the corrective action mode. It impairs future prospects and improvement of an organization.

Given that many companies are in corrective action mode, how does one explain that many of these companies eventually get excellent products out the door? Well, they do it with a lot of meetings, stress, and muscle which all result in extra cost.

And a large percentage of those corrective action costs remain hidden in overhead (evaluating fixes, implementing changes to fix items, meeting time, costs to “rework” documentation, etc.). That cost is “felt” by the organization, but is not accurately accounted for. As a result, proper emphasis is not placed on improving processes to eliminate deficiencies.

Here are some techniques organizations use to manage corrective action which do not work:

- Calling in the Fire Fighters
Fire fighting is the accepted management methodology. Successful firefighters are more often promoted to management positions than qualified process improvement experts. Process improvement experts are not as glamorous.

-Buy Software
It is true that software and automation have the potential for enormous benefits, but if not implemented in conjunction with working processes it will only allow individuals to make bad decisions faster. This is obviously the case if CM processes are not effective or efficient.

- Constant Inspection
If you are constantly inspecting to see if you follow your procedures and checking to see if the product matches its documentation, but find you are documenting a lot of discrepancies with nothing getting resolved, then you’re on a Merry-Go-Round. This is not a solution.

- Hire A Consultant
Companies often hire consultants who are supposed to come in and turn things around. Many believe that because the consultant comes from a well known firm they must be an expert. When the smoke clears, the consultant will submit a report telling the company what most of the employees already knew - that things need to be improved. Don’t get me wrong, there are good consultants out there; but the irony is that even the recommendations of the best consultants often get ignored when they recommend process improvement (especially improvements associated with CM processes).

- Deck the Halls
Fill the lobby with photos of all the famous consultants the company has hired, drape flags across the building for all the quality certifications earned, and cover the building in mottos and slogans stating the company’s commitment to quality, assuming this will motivate people and ensure something magical will happen.

- Lay-offs
The company might even contemplate handing out pink slips, since it doesn’t understand how process improvement could correct the situation.

What are your experiences with how organizations manage corrective action?

Join this conversation and others on the CMPIC® Configuration Management Trends LinkedIn group.