Process as the exception

What’s the point of processes? To tie down what needs to be tied down. To make what has to be reliable entirely reliable. To waste no more thinking time than is absolutely essential on stuff that doesn’t merit it. To free up as much of our time as is possible to do the interesting, the unique, the creative.

Processes should be about freeing time, not about using up time – about enabling choice not about constraining choice. In many cases, processes are generated for entirely the wrong reasons. They are written (often against the clock) to satisfy the demands of quality audits and the like. They are written by the quality staffers, tucked away in their broom cupboard under the stairs, some distance from the action. They are preserved in aspic in the Quality Management System, safely away from prying eyes. Originally this was achieved by keeping them in big books where no-one could find them. Now that the systems are all online, they are simply made impenetrable, so that nobody in their right mind would attempt to read them.

The essence of a good process is:

  • It only exists if it needs to exist
  • It makes sense in terms of the things that fit around it
  • It makes sense in terms of the bigger picture – of what the organisation is trying to achieve
  • It is in the place and in the form that is most natural for its users
  • It is no more detailed than it absolutely needs to be
  • It is easier to go through than round
  • You know when it isn’t working

The world is full of bad processes. Whole industries have grown up around them. Please don’t add to them. They don’t help.

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