Actionable metrics for engineering leaders.
Processes are essential for effective management. They keep people in sync, making it possible for team members to come together and achieve a shared goal. But they’re also dangerous. Processes can create the illusion that things are running smoothly because they’re moving along according to the shared understanding of how they’re “supposed to” run.
This is the Fallacy of Process — the idea that by adding consistency and predictability to a shared workflow, a given process is inherently valuable.
Too often, process becomes canon. A team develops an effective way of doing something, then returns to that framework indefinitely, long past its expiration date.
As processes grow stale, they become red tape, increasing friction rather than removing it. That friction is more than just a hassle; it can be incredibly expensive — inefficiencies result in lost productivity, and frustrated developers are more likely to seek new roles elsewhere.
Just as a good process can multiply your team’s productivity, a bad, broken, or outdated process can have a compounding effect, costing your department more than any line item on its budget.
On their podcast, Rands and co-host Lyle Troxell, Senior Software Engineer at Netflix, propose the idea that every process lives somewhere on a spectrum between total entropy and complete control. For a process to be valuable, it needs to live somewhere between the two extremes.
They suggest that the problem with process starts with attitude, and they recommend that managers:
Managers at all levels would do well to heed this advice. But it can be difficult to identify sources of friction and honestly evaluate processes when you’re not the one tasked with implementing them. Still, it’s essential — the farther a broken process strays towards one end of the spectrum, the more it’s likely to cost you.
So, as a leader looking to evaluate and optimize your team’s processes, where should you start?
Software development pipeline model courtesy of Alexandra Paredes.
Continually evaluating and revamping your processes is the only way to keep them fresh and effective, and to ensure you’re not paying for processes that exist for process’s sake. Of course, there’s a certain paradox inherent in proposing a new process for fixing old, broken processes. Adapt it, change it, and make it work for you. Anything less would just be falling prey to the Fallacy of Process.
Previously published at https://codeclimate.com/blog/the-fallacy-of-process
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