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When Less is More

Some might think that a company focused on processes would be all about having a process for everything, that you can never have too much process.


The opposite is true.


In a previous post I talked about how processes should be simple, flexible and probably won’t cover every possible situation.


If you try to build a process to cover everything you’ll fail. And not just because anticipating every possible scenario is impossible. A process, or series of processes, that cover everything will be too big and too complex to use. If you want your company to succeed, to fly, you need to keep it simple. Think Wright brothers rather than Airbus. Sure you can train your teams to fly that Airbus of a process, but what happens as you get bigger? You go from flying an A320 process to an A340 or all the way to A380…


You’re going to need to retrain your teams as you grow and provide a lot of training for all the new-hires.


Even if you don’t grow that much and stay smaller you’ll have to provide refresher training to both new and existing team members. Plus any of the processes or parts of a process that cover rare events will have been forgotten by the time they’re needed. You also risk creating a culture where people won’t do things if the process hasn’t been followed and certain tasks can only be done by certain people. This would be a very toxic place to work.


Too much process is counter-productive. They make it difficult to get things done, create tension between teams, don’t scale and aren’t responsive to changes. All of these things are common at companies of all sizes. At IBM there were so many processes they started to feel like a physical object holding the company together; a slow moving, sticking kind of gel. We referred to it as “The Blue Goo” and while the stories of its effects are amusing now, they were massively frustrating at the time. The goal of The Better Process Company is to stop you having your own goo problems regardless of colour.

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