Don’t Become a Slave to Process
Process can simply be defined as a set of activities or steps performed in order to achieve a desired result.
In the area of software development, organizations typically have a multitude of processes their employees are expected to follow for accomplishing different tasks. These tasks could include software designing, developing, versioning, testing, status reporting, deployments, software releases, customer interaction, outages, knowledge transfer, root cause analysis, metrics gathering, expense reporting, and infrastructure maintenance.
More mature organizations are usually very process-disciplined, especially when teams are in multiple locations, countries, or time zones.
Process is an important and necessary tool for ensuring the delivery of a quality product. Having processes in place ensures consistency, increases efficiency, and provides a way to measure productivity. It also helps to prevent chaos, errors, and wasted resources. When properly implemented, process can serve as a foundation for a company’s success.
However, it’s dangerous to become overly reliant on process.
Sometimes people can become too complacent, accepting a process just to avoid having to make decisions. It’s not enough to simply know the process steps you are supposed to follow; it’s just as important to understand the reasoning behind those steps. Blindly following a process at all times, without understanding the logic behind it, is not the best approach.
Processes facilitate convergent thinking, which involves going through a list of predetermined steps to reach a desired goal. Conversely, divergent thinking, which requires more creativity and imagination, involves the exploration of different directions from an initial problem statement to generate many possible answers. Although both convergent and divergent thinking are important for solving problems, divergent thinking is crucial for developing new and innovative solutions.
When it comes to process, divergent thinking is important because things don’t always go according to plan, and situations that don’t fit the mold will inevitably arise. When this happens, the usual process doesn’t always make sense, and making an exception to the rule is sometimes warranted. Being able to recognize when this is the case and determine the best course of action—even if that means deviating from the process—requires divergent thinking.
Divergent thinking is also necessary for maintaining process-plasticity, which refers to the malleable nature processes should maintain. Time, technology, and shifting shareholder value all have a way of making even the most seasoned of processes obsolete. This is why teams should regularly engage in the practice of pruning, which is essentially “trimming” the steps of a process.
This is done by regularly evaluating a process to determine which steps are providing the value originally intended; eliminating those steps that are no longer necessary, useful, or valuable; and keeping, strengthening, or adding steps as needed. In order to do this effectively, divergent thinking is essential.
The successful implementation of a process requires divergent thinking, which means at times you will need to use your imagination. If you depend solely on convergent thinking, you could become so reliant on process that you use it as a crutch. Don’t fall into the trap of letting process make you unimaginative.