What drives quality: Operational Management

My 2nd book What Drives Quality is available on Amazon, in my webshop, and in all other major bookstores.

The series on “What Drives Quality” describes both technical activities and supporting activities; this one describes how Operational Management drives quality. Understanding what drives quality enables you to take action before problems actually occur, thus saving time and money.

With Operational Management I mean the Line Managers in an organisation, both middle management and team/department managers (not the Senior Managers). They manage the employees of the organization, and are responsible for the daily operation of your company.

Factors that drive Quality by Operational Management are:

  1. Resource Capability Management – Ability of operational management to improve and sustain improvements in the skills of employees, both technical skills and interpersonal (e.g., collaboration, communication, feedback).
  2. Resource Allocation – Allocation of developers, testers, and support staff to projects.
  3. Resource Stability – The same people remain on a project until completion without being replaced, with a focus on key resources such as technical coordinators, design leaders, test leaders, team leaders, and subproject managers.
  4. Schedule Pressure – The way deadlines are used to put pressure on projects and people to deliver on time.
  5. Operational Overview and Insight – Insight into the status of ongoing projects (e.g., processes used, documents delivered, quality of the documents).
  6. Decision Making Capability – The ability to balance quality, time, cost, and functionality and to make timely decisions that involve the right people. Also to assure that decisions are communicated and that the work is followed up to completion.

Capable Employees

The quality of the products and services that a company delivers is strongly related to the capabilities of their employees.Operational Management is responsible for the development of their people, to assure that they are capable to do their work in a good way. The People CMM contains practices for training and development, and competency management, and to assure an empowered professional workforce. Several authors have emphasized the need for training and practice development in software, like William E. Perry in his book iTeam and Bob Martin in The Clean Coder.

Stable teams

Results come from people that work together. They collaboratively design, develop and test the software products and services. Relationships need to be established between the professionals to work together efficiently. Operational Management has to establish and maintain stable teams, for instance by arranging the work in packages that can be taken up by multidisciplinary empowered teams. It is also important to limit employee changes in key roles, like the project manager or the technical lead / architect. Allow some slack time in their work to assure that can be available for the teams and the stakeholders of the project; that enables them to act quickly when needed, and to assure that teams do not waste time, for instance by waiting for decisions that need to be taken. Lean Value Stream Maps can help you to picture your development and delivery chain, and look for bottlenecks and possible waste.

Effective Decisions

Part of any management role is the responsibility to take decisions. This can be about what the software should do, when it should be delivered, how much time and money can be invested, or what the quality of the products and services must be. Professionals depend on decisions, it is important for them that decisions are taken on time, and that they are clearly communicated. The CMMI has a process area, Decision Analysis and Resolution (DAR) that describes how criteria can be established, and solutions identified and evaluated to take effective decisions.


Operational Management can drive quality. By establishing a capable, stable workforce, which can deliver quality products and services in an efficient way. And by taking and communicating decisions timely so that professionals know what is expected from them. Together with Senior Management, Project Management and Process Management, Operational Management drives professionals to deliver high quality products, on time and within budget, which meet their quality goals.

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Ben Linders

I help organizations with effective software development and management practices. Active member of several networks on Agile, Lean and Quality, and a frequent speaker and writer.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Sophia Irepu

    Dear Ben,

    I feel you hit the nail on the head with this piece of work. In a recent research i conducted on project performance measurement for my masters degree award, it emerged clearly that operations management determined the level of performance of the project. Meaning that is where resources of any organisation should be directed if they are to achieve quality results from their project interventions. Thank you for your wonderful insights.

  2. BenLinders

    Thanks Sophia for your reaction!

    Management plays an important role when it comes to quality by setting the conditions and establishing an environment where professionals can do great things.

    Can you share some of the results from your research? I would love to hear more from it!

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