Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Rules and Process, Process and Rules

Recently my old boss transitioned out and my new boss transitioned in.  The new boss, is for the most part a pretty good guy.  Head firmly on his shoulders with brain intact.  So far I've enjoyed working with him and expect that trend to continue. 

He has brought with him a skill/habit that I haven't encountered very often.  He's been consulting at the VP Eng level for a while now and as such, with his multiple engagements he's had to build up a skill set around figuring people out quickly.  He is well versed in a number of frameworks of personality assessment and uses these as tools of his own for understanding.   As far as I can tell, so far, he allows these to provide a snap profile for people that he then uses judgement and experience to evolve into a more accurate and true picture.  

I do know that there are people out there that loathe this type of approach, of pigeon holing people instead of treating people as individuals.  Loath might, in fact, be too light of a word for it, I've watched people start foaming at the gums with glowing red eyes over the entire notion. I, however, think that it's a moderately reasonable approach to your interactions as long as you're fairly open to allowing ongoing evidence to alter your opinions.  I've been pretty happy with this aspect of the new boss as well.

By way of an example - I found out that this boss had tagged me as a person who pretty closely tracks to rules and processes.  This highlighted itself in our meetings as we've started transitioning the team to agile in comments that indicated he believed that I would be the person being a stickler to following process.  And indeed in some ways I am, not so much in that I insist that we follow a process but rather in that we acknowledge that there is a process that has been set in place for a particular situation before we proceed down a different pass.  But within the objection itself, he believed that I was trying to keep us on the path.  After some discussions about these facts he no longer believes that I am so stuck on the process trail. 

 I am a firm believer in the value of having process for anything that you do that is repeatable.  Whether it's in your personal life or in your business world.  Process isn't necessary defined, for me, as 'the best way to do something.'  Process for me can rather be defined as 'a way of doing something such that you are getting a reasonably high return value from your actions, each and every time that you do it.  It must also be a way that is effectively follow-able by each team member without being so complicated as to be a barrier for compliance."  It's not necessarily the best way, every process can be improved. It's more important to find a reasonable process and implement it rather than wait for the best way.  It is essential to make sure that your process isn't super complicated as well because if it's too hard, people simply won't do it, or at least won't do it right.  There's nothing saying that you can't improve process after you've declared one, they should be considered to be living entities, ready to evolve...with the right process being followed. 

Process is important because it's the thing that helps you perform something correctly when you're not really paying attention, or you're a little sleepy that day, or you don't perform a task on a regular basis, or you're just new and don't understand things completely.  Process is the thing that tracks the little things when you don't want to so that the whole is accomplished with a greater level of success.  Process also helps define success so you know when you're done.  

So OK, now that I've made it seem like my new boss was right and that I'm a rules Nazi there's an extension to what I've said above.  It's only when you understand a process that you can make a decision to remove yourself from that process, go another way and still hope for success.  More often than not when we're doing something that doesn't quite match up with process I find myself asking the question, 'This is what the process says we should be doing, if that's the case, should we be doing what we ARE doing?'  If you have a reasonably intelligent answer and can field my follow up questions that start with, 'have you considered...' (questions that flow from the actual process themselves) then I'll be your biggest backer in going off the reservation. 

If everyone thought the same, worked the same, made decisions the same and went into everything fully aware of all the factors in play then we wouldn't need process because every time you'd still get the same result.  So that's what process does, it helps you to success when people aren't aware of all the factors or aren't thinking clearly.  By asking the questions of whether you should be breaking the process you're ensuring that you are thinking of the important factors and it's OK to move off process.  

You might still be dooming yourself. 

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