Connecting the dots…

The fallacy of the perfect Process

It's complicated.

Things go wrong. All the time. That’s life. How we respond and adapt after they go wrong is what is important.

In most organisations, there are policies, processes and procedures for just about everything. We document and codify everything believing that if we do this and then share these with everyone in the organisation as the official way of doing things, nothing could go wrong.

“Thus sayeth the process, and thus shall it be, and all shall be good.”

However, inevitably some curveball is thrown and something breaks that the process doesn’t cater for. We rush to update the process with this new edge case, believing we’ve stemmed the hole, publishing the new updated official policy that all should follow. And all is good in the world again.

Until the next curveball.

The problem with policies and procedures is that although at their core they may perhaps have valuable reasons for existence, over time they become inflexible and often become the end in themselves. In software development, we all want to ensure that we don’t break anything. No-one wants the production servers to go down after deploying the latest code. That’s terrible for everyone, from developer to CEO. But does it mean that it should take 6 months to get approval from 15 different departments, go through 5 boards and generate reams of documents that end up in File 13?

The Sacred Order of The Keepers of the Process also usually wield these processes like a stick, forcing you into submission, even if you know that there are better ways of solving the actual problem that the processes were trying to solve in the first place. They treat you as if you’re deliberately trying to break everything and you’re not qualified to question them. You’re forced to comply, even though you know something’s going to go wrong. As long as you have the form signed in triplicate, you’re in the clear. You’ve washed your hands of the situation and can’t get the blame. You followed Process.

This isn’t the outcome anyone wants. We want to do what’s right for the customer. We want to make sure our business succeeds and grows. To do this, we need to get to the root of what problem we’re actually trying to solve and work together to find the best and most flexible solution. And we should always keep each other in check if we see that we’re starting to follow the process blindly. That’s a sign that we’ve stopped innovating.







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