Growing Your Processes

  1. grow, so do some processes. You can stand there all day and try to motivate the plant, but it will do no good.
  2. People have become pretty wily over the years. They know how it goes. The boss goes to a conference, reads a book, etc., and before long there is a new initiative. They figure that the new effort will be like the old one and die in about two months (or whenever the boss gets a new idea), so they just wait it out. When all is said and done, they end up in the same place (i.e., no results) without the extra work.
  3. A particular project can only bear so much weight. If the project is too big or complex, it is simply beyond the resources and capacity of the organization to execute. Reality check: How often do you have excess resources (people, time, tools, etc.) available?
  4. Projects of twelve months or longer are at higher risk of failure. Too many things can change in a year—people, risks, laws, the business, technology, and priorities, just to name a few.

Even with the downsides of organic approaches, I favor them because they mitigate risk to some degree. For example, I would rather have one team be successful with test automation even if no other teams are able to pull it off. At least I have some lessons learned and a proof of concept.

Management, however, often lacks the patience for slow-moving processes, and with good reason—missed opportunities, lack of accountability, misuse of resources, and so forth.

Plus, I really do like plans. The problem is that I have trouble sticking with plans . Most people share that problem, so adaptability is the key. In fact, one of the greatest risks of having a plan is that you may achieve the plan’s objectives but miss other opportunities along the way.

When in unknown territory, a map helps. But, as the saying goes, “When the map and terrain disagree, follow the terrain.” (This also holds true for GPS devices.)

Plans often have steps. The problem arises when you realize that: 1) the steps don’t seem to fit your situation, and 2) decisions are required that you don’t feel prepared to make yet. I had a friend once that said, “Before you can do something, you have to do something else first.” How true.

The Planned Organic Approach

Imagine the task of planting a garden that contains a variety of plants such as tomatoes, onions, peppers, carrots, green beans, etc. You need to create an environment for these plants to grow. In fact, you need a plan.

You need to know which plants will grow in your climate, when to plant them, how much sun or shade is needed, how much water is needed, how deep to plant, and how much space is needed between plants. Don’t even get me started on the other factors that the Farmer’s Almanac gets into.

I call this the “Planned Organic” approach. In this approach, you know:

    • The desired outcomes
    • That the process will take time
    • That some things are out of your control (temperature, rainfall, etc.)
    • What must be done to prepare (tilling the soil, fertilizing, pesticides)

You know the desired “end state,” and you can build reasonable expectations. You can’t force the garden to grow, but you can help things along. For example, you will need to pull weeds. You also know that you have to do some things before planting a garden, such as picking the right location, picking the right plants, and tilling the soil.

Now, take these concepts to something

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