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How's Your Process? Twitter Facebook Print E-mail
Written by Tom Welch   
Tuesday, 03 February 2009

Processes are an important part of every business. A well-defined process can help the security, quality, and cost savings of a product or service rollout. However, some ugly side effects can result from even the best-planned processes. I've identified three general problems that creep up in many processes. I hope that we can come up with innovative solutions to make our processes run smoothly.

Square Peg, Meet Round Hole

One of the biggest problems with many processes is that they take a “one-size-fits-all” approach. For example, if your business is used to handling large projects, and a small one comes along, you may end up spending much more time, money, and effort forcing the small project through the large project process – an ugly side effect. This has happened recently on one of my projects. It took months of effort before we could even start the development. The process effort far surpassed the amount of work the project required.

The Continuity Conundrum

No process is planned to be bad. They originate from the need for improvement. However, many times the original objectives and goals of a particular process become lost over time. Individuals focus on the process instead of the overarching goals and objectives. The side effect of this is that individuals can become roadblocks to the process. They become fixated on their roles without understanding goals and objectives, and can easily derail a project for inconsequential reasons.

The Darwin Effect

Related to the Continuity Conundrum, the Darwin Effect happens over time. The process evolves, but not always for the better, like a snowball rolling down a hill getting bigger and bigger. Sometimes our processes become so big and unwieldy that they crush the projects that they are trying to serve. Diverse groups become involved, and procedures try to catch the 1% of exceptions that proper training could have prevented. As the process grows, people begin to think of ways to work around the process.

To prevent these problems from destroying productivity, organizations should reinforce objectives and goals. When people understand objectives and feel empowered to achieve goals, they can make decisions that will eliminate some of the unintended side effects. They can then make good suggestions.

At the Church, we are blessed to have great leadership from Joel Dehlin, the Church's CIO. We have monthly All Hands meetings where Joel reinforces our department’s objectives and goals. While problems with our process do catch us at times, we constantly strive to get better. One of our department’s cultural beliefs states:

Speak Up - I professionally challenge, ask questions, propose alternatives, and exchange feedback.

This belief, coupled with a good understanding of our objectives and goals, will help make our processes more efficient and beneficial.

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