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Don’t let process get in the way of your process

You don’t always have to do things just because a process says so.

We all love processes and methodologies. Agile or waterfall? Design Thinking or Venture Design? User stories or job stories? Last in, first out or first out, last in?

Each of these concepts has its own set of rules to follow and the outputs vary from process to process. They all have a camp of passionate supporters who swear that their process is most effective (probably with some pretty good rationale). But for all the benefits a good process can bring to a project, it can also cause problems instead of solving them if we blindly follow it.

I was recently on a website project where it dawned on me that the process was overtaking the project and adding unnecessary steps. It, and not us, was dictating the project. We were producing deliverables that the client didn’t need, and doing things for roles that didn’t even exist on our team – all in the name of following the process. To get back on track, we modified the process so it made sense for what we needed to happen next. We stopped doing something just because someone else’s process said so.

If your team or client is never  going to look at low-fidelity wireframes, skip that step or do them in a way that enables you and your team to move on to the next stage of the project. If user stories don’t make sense for what you’re doing, try job stories instead. Or just invent something new. As long as you can rationalize your thinking and the output is useful to the next person, who’s to say it’s wrong? Use existing processes as a foundation to author your own doctrine. Don’t let them be your doctrine.

In the military, they say “no plan survives first contact.” Meaning, you can plan all you want, but as soon as you encounter the enemy it all goes out the window. So you plan on adapting. Your process and plans should allow you to adapt. Process brings order and predictability to what we do, but make it work for you and not the other way around. Be free to modify or create new approaches that fit your needs. In fact, you should plan on it.

Photo by William Iven on Unsplash