The Power of Process

As our company shifts out of the formalized process era into a more Agile, Kanban, Lean space I have started to notice a reliance on process itself.  The change we are generating is a process one as well as a cultural one and relies on a shift from unilateral control leadership (command and control, hierarchical, the land of the hero developer and the problem solving manager who save the day) to facilitative leadership, where teams have autonomy and permission to make decisions. The problem is, the process! Where is it ?

Time and time again as a coach I get either asked what does Agile say (which is impossible to answer as Agile is conceptual and not a process, however Scrum is a process ) and if I answer along the lines of, “What would work for you ?” Or even better, “Does that make sense ? ” Or wait, the scary one, “How come you are doing that, where is the value ? ” People panic! They want a process, they want surety and safety, they want the process to make decisions for them…..which are all symptoms of unilateral command leadership.

I have started to wonder if Process isn’t just another form of command and control? An insidious one as we don’t even see it as taking away our freedom, whereas we quickly spot a tyrannical leader. I noticed this diving, especially when I started to do more unusual dives, where the ‘process’  didn’t really fit, but as it was the way we did things, that is how people judged  competence. The problem is, to dive a new site or in my case, to a depth never dived before by a woman and only a handful of times by men, you can’t use the process that gets you to 30m and back. You can barely use the process that got you to 186m and back because deep underwater, process sticks you into a sequence of reactions that may not be at all suitable for what is actually happening and because you are following the process, you don’t think, you just follow. In a deep dive, if you can’t work from principle and in the moment you can’t adapt and so you die.

We may not see the world of business or indeed banking as a world of explorers but what if they were more similar than not ? We live in a world that changes, fast, to the point where the process we used last month to solve a problem or achieve results probably won’t now. The more I think about it the more I can’t but help see Process is a trap. It is command and control as it takes away a team’s ability to think for themselves and make decisions for th selves and even worse than when this unilateral control is sitting with a person, it places it into the hands of no person! There is no one to argue with or debate with and no easy way to get the process changed, mostly because no one really knows why the process exists so they don’t how how to change it safely. So you are stuck, following the process, not thinking, adapting or learning, waiting for the process to somehow evolve, blameless of course.

Yes process has its place, without it divers wouldn’t now be able to successfully repeat 100m dives….but that is just it. Process allows you to repeat and follow, it doesn’t easily allow for new. So for now I will be following ‘no process’ and seeing what happens when people learn how to see their world and so build the process they need now….and then throw it away when they see things change and build a brand new one, custom fitted for where they are now.