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© Han van Loon 1996 - 2006

The Story of STARS

The idea for STARS started when I worked in an award winning leading-edge software engineering company. We had many good people, many good processes and quite a few good products, but something was missing - not all three always worked in harmony.

At the time, the company had quite a few project and departmental processes assessed wholly at SPICE (ISP15504) capability levels 3 and 4 (and partly at level 5). Some staff adopted these processes wholeheartedly, while other staff avoided them or acted as if they had a personal jihad against any formal processes.

There was a healthy (well mostly healthy) debate about whether quality processes helped (or hindered) producing quality products. Perhaps it could be better said that some processes were either not as beneficial as believed by the authors or champions, or misapplied or inappropriate to apply to certain projects or product developments.

The quality system reflected the usual transitory state of work in progress. Sometimes the synchronization of the three pillars of management (people-process-product) was badly askew.

In addition, we needed a new way to look at introducing how quality management should suit individuals, teams and large project organization.

From talking to people, gathering together years of experience and evaluating older and modern paradigms for managing, I set to work to invent a new way of looking at management:

an approach that would be more dynamic to use
an approach that is more creative
an approach that would be more responsive to user's needs
an approach that would use built-in feedback to improve
an approach that would encourage learning
a scalable approach that would cover the fundamentals, yet be scalable up to large teams and projects
a tailorable approach to suit the people and the products they would produce
an approach that would be enjoyable to use

The initial forum for the STARS concept was the company induction sessions where we workshopped the components that comprise the concept with new staff. This occurred from 1997 through 1998. (See Initial Workshop for a description). In essence, we explored aspects of doing a good job, what we should do, what problems could stop or hamper us and how to overcome them. Through several workshops over 12 months we refined and evolved the STARS concept. We devised a highly participative approach, involving the participants in defining helping to improve the concept whilst they were learning about it at the same time. We created a simple Aide-memoir for participants to take away from the workshops.

The STARS concept in its paper form has been demonstrated to several hundred people over the past 3 years. It has evolved and will continue to evolve as improvements are realized. 

The STARS Concept consists of a series of STARS Themes. Each STARS Theme has a particular orientation, for example: Personal STARS which consists of 5 stages setting the basic cycle:

Set Goals

Think

Act

Review

Supply Improvements

When developing STARS further, the STARS concept and its basic principles have been used to improve and expand the concept through the STARS Workshops and STARS Webworx tool.

Notes. 1 SPICE is the International Standards ISO15504 - a standard focused on the capability of processes considered fundamental and supportive to best practice software development. The higher the level (Top = 5) the better your processes are (4 = pretty damn good!).