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Monday, 11 June 2007 09:13

Evil Alter Egos: Episode 4 - Mrs. Process

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Fighting alter egos is tough work.  Like Dr. Jekyll striving against Mr. Hyde it can seem like a loosing battle.  This is especially true when the alter ego seem so helpful in the beginning.  Take the case of Mrs. Process.  She starts by figuring out how things are done and documents the procedures.  Working with others she finds better and faster ways to accomplish the work and incorporates them.  By performing audits and making sure that the procedures are followed she spots things before they become issues.  The problem begins when she becomes inflexible and intolerant.  As she turns over to the dark side her focus becomes the letter of the law, not the spirit.  Forms become static and any alterations are denounced vociferously.  

Don’t misunderstand me.  As a former Software Quality Assurance Analyst and Project Officer I am a big fan of process.  It is when we become slaves of process that this alter ego wins.  It isn’t limited to QA people, either.  Project managers can become mired in process.  How do we stop this insanity?

Question the process.  Processes are meant to speed up development by adding consistency to the performance.  Over time they should evolve and improve.  That doesn’t always happen.  If a process doesn’t make sense, question it.  Find out the purpose behind it and determine if it is going to help or hinder you in achieving that goal.  Remember, the processes do not belong to the QA group.  They belong to the team that uses them.  If one doesn’t make sense it is your responsibility to initiate a change.

Focus on purpose.  Once you understand the spirit of the law focus on it.  If the process needs to be bent, bend away.  Very few processes were intended to be rigid.  Granted, if you are working with nuclear materials there are some specific processes you need to follow.  But when you are managing a project the letter of the law is not always required.  Do what makes sense using the process as a guideline and the spirit as the driver.  One example is status reporting.  The letter of the law may require status reports be produced weekly.  If the project is on hold for several weeks with no activity shift the reporting schedule.  Clear it with your management and then document in each report when the next one is due.

Allow for exemptions.  Sometimes it just makes sense to bypass a process.  If you have a strict Quality Assurance group or are subject to Sarbanes-Oxley requirements it is important that you get permission, usually in writing, to do so.  Corners can be cut, but you need to ensure that the project and company are not placed at risk by slicing too much. 

Don’t destroy Mrs. Process but bring her back to the light.


Read 5308 times Last modified on Sunday, 13 December 2009 18:43
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