‘While a good process can’t assure delivery, and a good team can deliver despite an unwieldy process, a poor process can get in the way quite neatly’.
In case you haven’t figured it out by now, this post is about process. What it is. What it isn’t. Common misconceptions. Benefits. Implementation strategies.
What is a Process?
An established, step-by-step way of doing things, and a well-articulated set of internal and external documents and tools supporting it.
This is, of course, one definition of any number that may be out there. Another, more succinct definition (of sorts) that I’ve heard used is, ‘applied common sense’.
What isn’t a Process?
Magic. A silver bullet. A panacea. As the first quote above notes, a good process can’t assure delivery. That said, it’s a place to start. A baseline from which to begin and to continuously improve from. Even for the Agile purists that declare as part of their Agile Manifesto to value ‘Individuals and interactions over processes and tools’, are in fact rather processes driven in their own way through adherence to Agile processes and practices such as user story modeling , iterative development and time-boxing.
Preferred methodology aside, we could all benefit from a little bit of process – though not everyone is convinced.
Common Myths Associated with Process
- Adds unnecessary steps and time
- A form of micro-managment
- Adds documentation for documentation’s sake
- Limits creativity
- Limits flexibility
These are common reasons why establishing (and documenting where appropriate) processes on a team or within an organization is often met with resistance.
On the other side of the coin, having a solid process that is understood, documented and followed can truly be the difference between success and failure on a project. And while it may not always be readily apparent from the outset, process can have numerous benefits for everyone involved. Here are 10+ that come to mind.
Benefits of Process
- Repeatable. Predictable. Manageable. Having a process in place will help to ensure that your delivery process is repeatable, predictable and manageable which has obvious associated benefits – as well as others explored in the subsequent points.
- Maximized efficiency. Minimized waste. To be able to hit the ground running on the actual work to be done vs. spending time defining the steps (the ‘how) and/or the creation of templates/documents/assets etc. to facilitate the work.
- Clear expectations. So everyone knows what they need to do, what everyone else needs to do, and what the timing and dependencies are.
- Reduces risk. By having processes in place related to the risky areas of delivery, risks are identified and mitigated early.
- Reduced re-work. With risks and/or issues caught earlier, the likelihood of costly re-work is reduced.
- Better quality product. With risks and/or issues caught earlier and the ‘how’ figured out in advance, the time and energy on the project can be focused on developing and testing the product, and the results will show.
- Reduced interruptions. Increased focus. Increased productivity. If there are still any skeptics, hopefully this one will help to convert them. While still having processes and steps in place related to the above points (e.g. risk identification and mitigation), an objective of any process should always be to provide more focused time for the team to do their work.
- Better awareness of the big picture. With a process in place and documented, everyone can see how their contributions fit into the larger picture.
- Cross training and professional growth. When processes are established and documented, it’s easy to train team members and new hires on how things are done to allow people to advance their career and not be ‘stuck’ having to take care of a certain task because he/she is the only one that knows how to do it.
- Increased customer satisfaction. Increased employee morale. With all of the above considered and addressed through the implementation of a process what works for your particular project/business unit/organization, the collective result will be increased customer satisfaction and increased employee morale, which is obviously good for everyone.
So now that we’ve seen the benefits of process, here are a few strategies for successful implementation.
- Alignment. When developing, documenting and improving your processes, take the time to step back and make sure it aligns with the goals and values of your organization, project and team members. Much like understanding how a work package or a test case maps back to a requirement in a delivery project, the way you get things done should also map back to individual, team and company goals.
- Collaborate. Work collaboratively to develop your process with the people that will be using it. Seeking inputs from everyone will go a long way to ensure you have considered all of the areas and will also increase likelihood of adoption.
- Don’t over analyze. While it’s important to not create a process in vacuum, not consulting and collecting inputs from all the stakeholders, be mindful of getting into analysis-paralysis mode trying to make it perfect for everyone. Take a page from the ‘Lean’ start-up playbook and seek to get your MVP (Minimum viable product) out there and then improve it over time.
- Continuously improve. Further to the above point, processes should evolve and improve, so be active with looking for ways to make this happen. Process is not a one shot deal. Continuous improvement is key.
- Understand that one size doesn’t fit all. Figure out what works for your team, your customer and your project and tailor accordingly. Consider having a step in the process to evaluate and tailor the process for each project, adjusting up or down based on factors such as the project’s size, type, technology and customer.