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Are you fighting for process compliance?

Posted by Sri Subramanian (@whosissri) on February 24, 2012

No one contests that traffic lights and source control systems save us from death and insanity, or that even the worst bug system is better than none. Yet, process has come to mean bureaucracy, a distraction, something to put up with, or (if it can be managed) ignore.

Why is it so hard for people to follow a simple process guideline, any why is the noblest of metrics is so hard to people to focus on?

In the meeting, the metric sounded good. 

Everyone knows you are tracking bug backlog, and they are measured on how well that is controlled. However, they are not convinced that fixing a bunch of low-hanging-fruit bugs to reduce the backlog is the best use of their time.

What we need is to connect the dots so people can see how what they do matters, not just to the metrics, but to the business.

Process simply herds us one way, like sheep or cattle, and the best of us don’t respond well to that. We want to know where we are going, and why we can’t take that shorter route sometimes.

Process is not the answer for all problems.

Your manager is responsible for delivering the new version of the product quickly to meet the market needs. Process says she needs to get your architect’s approval on her design. The architect is reviews the design and suggests changes that will change the ship time significantly. What ensues is meetings and much negotiation and back and forth. The manager does not want to slip schedule, and the architect does not want to compromise design. Time is lost, the product slips, and there is no time left to make the changes that would have made the product better. No one wins.

What we need is to focus on aligning the goals of the manager and architect to the business goals, so they can collaborate and make the tradeoffs needed during the design.

Conclusion: We do need to police process, but if we find ourselves fighting for compliance, we need to examine if process is really what is needed here (or are we using it as a band aid for some other problem) , and if it is needed, are we spending enough time evangelizing it?

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