Agile has transitioned from being a development tool to a means to compete and drive another team into conformance with a competing team’s agenda. This is a prime example of how product development environments can turn into a dysfunctional control system. As senior management, above the project leaders, looks at a literally seventy to one hundred projects a month in reviews, all they have time to see are the critical path factors, Agile-based metrics and KPIs on accomplishment. The immediate reaction of senior management is that the coding for the main part of the application is going extremely well and the more complex, engineering-centric features that Sun is so well-known for is slowing down the process. What needs to happens is that a stronger leader needs to step in and place equal weight of project performance and quality of coding based on customer requirements, including adherence to the Marketing Requirements Document (MRD) and Technical Requirements Documents (TRDs). Transformational leadership is a critical skill set for alleviating systemic conflicts in the attainment of complex, challenging projects and initiatives (Camps, Rodriguez, 2011). The continuous use of the Agile development system as a means to initiate unhealthy competition and one-upmanship is the most toxic and dysfunctional area of the company today. When project management and measurement methodologies are used for deliberately initiating conflict between organizations, leaders must step in and work to end the dysfunctional use of these and get projects back on focus towards common shared goals and objectives (Goldman, 2008). Transformational leadership needs to concentrate on creating enough shared task ownership and outcomes so that toxic and dysfunctional competition that only delays projects and costs companies millions of dollars doesn’t occur (Camps, Rodriguez, 2011).
The second high profile and heavily relied upon control system is the new product development process that is gradually being transitioned to Sig Sigma and DMAIC-based methodologies globally throughout Oracle. As Oracle and many other enterprise software companies derive up to 30% of all revenues during the initial first 18 months of them being available, this system gets much focus internally (Veverka, 2010). Oracle is aggressively pursuing adoption of the Six Sigma methodology called DMAIC (Design, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control) to alleviate the disconnects in each phase of the new product development process that are occurring in the areas of the merged companies. Executive management, many of them having spent their careers in software and hardware engineering, are moving quickly to implement Six Sigma-based frameworks around the global development workflows and processes where they see problems starting to occur in speed vs. quality trade-offs. Six Sigma in general and the DMAIC methodology specifically are used throughout product development projects to increase their efficiency and focus on customer requirements (Grant, Mergen, 2009). This is exactly why Oracle’s senior management wants to get this control system engrained into the Sun and Oracle development teams ways of working. Oracle has long standardized on a custom-designed form of Six Sigma complete with a DMAIC-based methodology for managing more complex projects including the development of the Oracle 11i platform. The adoption of this specific form of Six Sigma into all areas affected by the merger continues on, and shows the potential to alleviate the dysfunctional aspects of the first control system discussed in this analysis. Six Sigma and DMAIC methodologies also will allow team leaders to drastically reduce the dysfunctional aspects of previous systems by measuring quality of coding and programming, in addition to just efficiency. The multidimensional aspects of Six Sigma as a methodology for managing projects are well-proven for alleviating conflicts inherent in resource constraints and perceptions of user requirements (Grant, Mergen, 2009). Using a balanced scorecard approach to track and report on these metrics and KPIs will give the combined Oracle and Sun Microsystems management teams greater visibility into which areas of projects are being sacrificed to just make the performance measures look good. In order words, Six Sigma will make it possible for the engineering management teams to evaluate the true performance of project plans to actual customer-driven goals, not just rely on a single perspective on programming efficiency alone (Goldman, 2008). The Agile system continues to perpetuate conflicts in performance analysis based on completion of deadlines, not the quality of the work or how well orchestrated it is to customer requirements. The Six Sigma DMAIC platform will alleviate this.
Using this approach to measuring performance will also mitigate conflict and the use of pre-existing systems and platforms as a means to compete against each other. There continues to be an understandable level of anxiety as to which programming team is superior, and in some situations, which would be the ones most likely to hold onto their jobs in a lay-off. When discussion of headcount reductions begin, Agile-based metrics of performance typically spike to nearly unrealistic levels, ironically becoming a metric measuring the level of miscommunication throughout the company instead of one measuring true performance to the actual goals and objectives overall.
Studies indicate that cognitive and perceptually-based biases are the foundation of entire systems becoming dysfunctional over time (Amason, 1996). As is the case with the development teams globally now united by the merger of Oracle and Sun, this is certainly the case with how metrics and KPIs of performance regarding new product development and testing are carried out. The lessons learned from this course in class and from the text underscore that Oracle needs to make significant changes to their new product development process and work to create a more unified culture that captures the best of what Sun has to offer and builds on the development strengths Oracle has.
From a personal standpoint, this study continues to be extremely valuable from a learning and leadership perspective. Mergers between corporations are never easy, and if metrics and KPIs that measure real results, not just efficiency or speed can be used, the combine efforts of both companies will be far more effective over time. The focus of this study has been on the Agile development system and use of Six Sigma and DMAIC methodologies for guiding development. These two systems have promising potential, yet have also been used fort dysfunctional purposes as well. Oracle’s acquisition of Sun brought in a series of skill sets that are very engineering-centric, highly trained and focused on depth of quality at times over speed of delivery., Oracle’s culture is also highly engineering-centric with a focus also on quality, but with speed winning out. Intermediating the differences between these two companies will require many of the concepts, frameworks and lessons learned from this course.
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David D. Van Fleet, Arizona…