Process: friend and foe

In my reading this week I came across a blog post from Tom Peters entitled Strategy: War on Systems. Tom talks about “systems” within an organization and while they are developed with good intentions, they often become inhibitors to achieving the organizational mission. I talk about this very subject quite a bit on my blog also. In fact while reviewing my notes for blog post ideas I found this entry:

“Software Development lessons learned (process is both friend and foe) – Software development friend and foe”.

This thought matches exactly with Tom’s thought about war on systems. Your software development process has steps that exist to produce output and serve customers. Over time, the process becomes more elaborate. Steps are added to prevent faults that happened in the past, to satisfy regulatory requirements, to satisfy best practices, or even recommendations from a consultant. As Tom put it, this type of system or process can “strangle” the organization. It becomes a priority just to follow the process and team members lose site of the original mission. Team members become process engineers as they navigate the process from end-to-end and feel accomplished when they can check-off each step completed.

It’s a safe bet to say that end customer rarely has influence into the design of the process. Ultimately, the customer has to buy the output and no one else.  So make sure your people have the ability to call-out and question process steps that don’t provide value for the customer. This is a big step for an organization that wants to increase its customer focus.