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Thursday, 04 May 2017 19:49

The TenStep View of Processes and Templates

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This content is from the TenStep weekly "tips" email dated 2017.3.5

The TenStep View of Processes and Templates

I am not sure if it is obvious, but at TenStep we are "process people". We think that organizations that have good processes have a much better chance to be successful than the organization with weak processes. Of course, you have to have good processes and you also have to follow them.

Templates, on the other hand, are secondary and are a derivative of processes. Unlike my prior statement regarding organizations with good processes, I would not state that an organization that has good templates would have a better chance to be successful. In fact, if a manager bragged to me about their templates, I would assume that this meant that they probably have weak processes.

What is the value of a template? Templates are important as a way to document some aspect of a process. For example, part of a scope change process is the ability to track changes throughout the project. This requires a Scope Change Log. Similarly your project may require more sophisticated communication, which can be documented on a Communication Plan.

The important point about templates is that they don't drive a process - they are simply a result from a process. For example, a project manager in your organization might state "My sponsor wants to start this project but we can't until we complete a Project Charter." They may state this as a paperwork burden that must be overcome before they can start the real work on the project.

But is that really what is going on? You should understand the value that the Project Charter provides. It is not just a paperwork burden that must be checked off a list. The Charter represents the work done to define a project. The Charter contains the project objectives, scope, deliverables, risks, assumptions, organization, milestones, etc. If a project manager complains about a Project Charter, they are really saying that they want to start the project before they understand these things. Does that make sense? Do you really want to start a project before you know the deliverables and scope and risks? I don't think so. The Project Charter allows a project manager to understand these fundamental aspects of a project, and then to document this information to make sure that there is a common understanding with the sponsor and other project stakeholders.

Of course, templates need to be scalable. Small projects need small templates. Larger projects need more complex templates since the processes are more complex.

I know of organizations that have very weak processes and so they can only focus on templates as a proxy for some process that is not well defined. In these organizations, the mentality is that you just need to complete certain templates to move past some checkpoint. Then it seems like the template ends up running the process. This is not right.

Summary

When people complain about templates, remind them of the process that the template represents. If the process makes sense, then the template makes sense. If the process does not make sense, the associated template won't either. 
At TenStep we are dedicated to helping organizations achieve their goals and strategies through the successful execution of critical business projects. We provide training, consulting and products for organizations to help them set up an environment where projects are successful. This includes help with strategic planning, portfolio management, program / project management, Project Management Offices (PMOs) and project lifecycles. For more information, visit www.TenStep.com or contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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