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Thursday, 1 June 2017

Four Quadrant theories- Effective techniques for improvement in an organisation

Unlike what the title might suggest, this post is not about some obscure mathematics equation or formulae. I know how much we just loved our Mathematics in school, thankfully we are not going down that road again.

So to clarify, this post is about tools of improvement within an organisation. By improvement I am broadly talking about effective communication, building on your strengths, an assessment of the weak links and overall increase in productivity.

Majority of the techniques can be at the team level, techniques like the SWOT analysis can used at the individual level as well. As the title suggest, all these techniques involve having a four sections or quadrants.

The following tools will be in discussion for the length of the post:

  • The SWOT Analysis
  • The Joahari Window
  • The Sad, Mad, Bad, Glad retrospective technique

A collective study is then undertaken later for every technique to work upon them later.

Lets get started with them, shall we?

The Strength Weakness Opportunities Threats (SWOT) analysis

 Even if you haven't actually tried this yet, chances are you have atleast heard of it. I have been hearing about the SWOT since my graduation days. Apparently we had a subject called Communication skills, goes without saying I didn't really pay attention back then 😝.

It was only when I made the leap into the corporate world when I realised how important these tools really are.

Perhaps the most primordial form of all the techniques used is the SWOT analysis.

As seen from the image above, we can make out the four quadrants to be Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities threats.

  • Strengths- Usually signify positive attributes, advantage over the competition, internal resources at your disposable
  • Weakness- If you are lacking in some trend that the competition seems to posses, then obviously your organisation is at an disadvantage. On a person level say a person has something innocuous as stage fright. This may lead him to clam up when giving a presentation. He will need to add such an attribute to his weakness.
  • Opportunities- If there is an emerging trend or technology that is about to be released, organisations can latch on them. For a better part this remains a largely external factor and opportunistic.
  • Threats:What if there are shifts in the customer behaviour and the consumer seems to inclining towards a product that you are not specializing on? Won't that be a worrying trend? This a threat and rightly so!
    On a personal level, consider a skill set that you do not possess and if there is a requirement for the same, what do you think an organization would do in such a scenario? The answer quite obvious. The person with knowledge in the domain would get the assignment. To avoid such a situation a person should identify the skill set and work on it till he masters it.

The Johari Window 

So much for what you know. But what about aspects that you do not know?

Well everybody has a perception about how they act and behave. The same action can be interpreted in a different way by a person other than you. To become more aware of your weaknesses and realize your strength we can seek out team members help. The Johari Window is an effective way of doing that.

I first came across Johari Window when I was at Capgemini but I am quite thankful to the wonderful quality team at Packt for giving this as quality tip and thus inspiring me to take up this article.

To implement the Johari window, the employees are given a list of  adjectives and asked to pick those that they feel give a an idea of their own qualities. After this the same list of adjectives are passed on to peers and they are asked to pick one for the subject.

The qualities picked up by the employee and then matched, compared and classified into the following quadrant.

  • Arena- Adjectives that both the peers and the participant employee agree on are placed in the Arena
  • Facade- Qualities that are not picked up by peers but only by the employee are grouped into facade. 
  • Blind Spot- Qualities picked up by peers but not by the participant are placed here
  • Unknown- Adjective picked up neither by the participant employee nor by his peers are placed in this quadrant.
Every team member goes through this sequence.

Sad, Mad, Bad, Glad conundrum

One of the most important techniques adopted in agile frameworks is the sad, bad, mad, glad retrospective technique. 

The four quadrants in are divided into:

Sad- Aspects about the sprint that the the team member is displeased about. Say a particular approach to a problem that may have inconvenienced some team members. 
Taking the development of a software web application, say if the build is not yet officially released and the testers are asked to perform testing on it it pre-release it may lead to gross miscalculation of the total number of defects as the developer may correct those errors before build release.

Mad- If a particular agreed upon protocol was not followed during the sprint then it is certainly a cause to be mad. Again taking the web application analogy- Say the code was supposed to be checked in before releasing the build and if it was not being followed then it should be noted down in the Mad column. Gross non-compliance apart, this would be quite detrimental to the prospects of the application.

Bad- Pointing out areas of improvement would definitely go into this column.
To explain this better we could lean on the web application analogy. So again considering the tester and developer working together on a sprint. If the sprint is of 15 days and the testing phase is allocated only two days and the rest being development then that may cause a lot inconvenience to the testing team. Moreover the quality of the build may get severely affected.

Glad- Finally the aspect where the team went correct. If there was good coordination within the team then that definitely should go into the glad column. Things that were correctly implemented in the current sprint and would be needed to be implemented in later sprints too need to go here.

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