Undocumented, Unrecognized Process

Following a twitter conversation recently, Matthias Weimann posted a quote from Clay Shirkry about process:

“Process is an embedded reaction to prior stupidity” – Clay Shirky

and it started. Scott Ambler – one of my favorite Tech authors replied:

There is always a process being followed.
Your process may or may not be documented, or even recognized by the people following it.

and it started me thinking.

A person who is performing an activity is either following a process or he is inventing one. You can’t “follow” a process that has never been invented. Invention may be simply combining elements together from other processes, but it is not following.

A group performing an activity is either following a process or they are collaborativey inventing one. The collaboratively inventing is messy. It typically involves arguments and disagreements. These collaborators will continue to invent like this until one or more get tired of the mess – they they recognize and documents elements of process to reduce the clutter of invention.

A manager looks at the mess of invention, he foresees chaos, unpredictability, disaster. He also foresees his own responsibility for same chaos and disaster and proclaims, “This cannot continue”. Shirky implies an incompetent manager who waits for the disaster to occur, but competent managers try to impose controls before the disaster occurs. 

A leader will join the fray and guide the chaos, gradually reducing the mess, so that we don’t continually reinvent the process over and over.


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