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Ag: People amplify Process

kallmanation profile image Nathan Kallman ・3 min read

We begin at the first tenet. Let the beginning begin with defining the words:

People

The individuals and the interactions between each and all of them.

Often organizations are personified and said to do one thing or another. But at the end, there were people who made decisions and took actions with other people.

Process

The tools and workflows used and followed. An agreed upon standard of operating.

I don't believe processes are fundamentally good or bad. Following processes can lead to good or bad outcomes or be good or bad to those following the process. So processes should be designed with the same care as though they were fundamentally good or bad and we can personify them into good and bad according to "their" actions. But it is the people deciding to impliment and follow them that are responsible.

People amplify Process

Improving process results in additive gains.

Improving people results in multiplicative gains.

Examples

BigCorp

Here stands BigCorp. Their draconian labyrinth of process is handed down from the C-suite. Process so well defined that even the most incompetent can avoid making detrimental contributions, leaving the mediocre to amass their mediocrity.

As such BigCorp can hire at incredibly low slaver... salary. The good people find themselves strangled by process unhinged from reality and undercompensated for their potential (but currently restricted) contributions. They leave or become like the others.

SmallCorp

SmallCorp hates process. They all left BigCorp and saw how downright awful all process is. None of that here!

But SmallCorp finds a new problem, without process no one agrees on how things are accomplished or even what to accomplish or when those things are finished. They chase one another's tail undoing and redoing conflicting work.

Of course, their excellent communication overcomes each of these "opportunities" as they arise. But each new member to join SmallCorp adds a new tail for everyone to chase.

SilverCorp

SilverCorp set a few ground rules early on. Everyone knows what to expect and who to expect it from. However, they left the process simple, with large margins for the judgement of the good people they (very selectively and carefully) hired.

When anyone finds a gap or shortcoming in their process they are empowered to bring it to the group and argue for change. When people agree, process is changed. When people disagree, they all try to be understanding and willing to compromise, but understand not everyone will follow exact processes, and adjust their own behavior to make the group successful.

Take-aways

While having no process leads to chaos and anarchy, where even the most angelic would struggle to make consistent progress, focusing on the process over the people is folly and wasted effort.

When designing process, the only true way to make it good is to experience it from every perpspective. If you cannot (or will not) experience (at least by proxy) the full process, you will create a suboptimal (if not downright bad) process.

Do not forget that amplification is agnostic. People will amplify the badness of bad process just as well as they amplify the goodness of good process.

So:

  1. Keep some process; do not eliminate all process as inherintly evil
  2. Let the people experiencing the process design it; they have the most insight to do it well
  3. Minimize amount of process to minimize negative amplification; focus on empowering the right people and they will maximize the goodness of the good process left

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