Make Your Process Work For You, Not The Other Way Around

One of my colleagues walked into my office today and said “Some people may kick me for saying this but I love the process.” This got my attention immediately, because the product development process he was referring to is one of my contributions to the organization. Here is the rest of my conversation with my colleague, whom I will call PMC (Process-Minded Colleague):

FB: [Cautiously] Why do you like it so much?

PMC: [Enthusiastically, as he always is] Because it makes my life easier; it is straightforward and at the right level of detail. Our previous process had too much detail in it and in many cases those details were either irrelevant to the project or needed modifications. But, the team members were usually not too keen on modifying activities in fear of doing something wrong.

FB: Do the team members feel differently now?

PMC: Two of the parts of the process are 1) clear identification of the decision-maker for each major activity, and 2) process tailoring tools provided to the team. It literally takes me two hours at the beginning of each project to tailor out unnecessary activities and related artifacts from my project. The fact that tailoring output is explicitly required in the process makes modification a natural exercise to go through.

FB: Glad to hear this! The purpose of the decision-maker identification and tailoring was to exercise the team to come up with what makes sense in each project. It is meant to be a cover-all process, and by that definition, significant chunks of it may be irrelevant to a smaller project. For example, a derivative product development project does not require all the steps that would have been required in a new product platform development project.

PMC: And, better yet, we still need to run the tailored version of the process with the decision-makers to ensure that we are not missing something in the larger scheme of things. It is a great way to catch out-of-project knowledge while explaining the tailored version to the stakeholders. In the old days, we did not have the forum for such a discussion and typically there would be something that comes and bites us way too late in development.

FB: I guess we should give ourselves a pat on the back and work on making it better.

PMC: Yup, I am on it, see you later!

My moral of the story was that we got three aspects of the process development right:

1) Develop an all-inclusive high-level activity plan in the process flow,

2) Identify the stakeholders and decision-makers,

3) Provide the tools to the project team and require the team to tailor it to suit their needs.

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