“Process is documented culture.”
This quote was discussed by Michael Lopp (engineering leader at companies such as Borland, Netscape, and Apple) at re:build 2014, a technology conference I attended in Indianapolis. While I took away a lot of great information, Lopp’s discussion particularly resonated with me. The best processes really do grow organically over time as a result of culture, and when implemented correctly they imply a fluid and effective approach for an entire team. This is ultimately what everyone strives to attain.
Lopp’s discussion related directly to development teams and their need for a process that makes sense, and it can be applied to every team across an organization. The idea behind a culture-driven process is that you are inspired to work in the most effective way for you and those you work with to achieve goals. This is obviously an ideal scenario for everyone involved: Leadership gets the bottom-line results they were looking for, and the team is actually happy because they are functioning in the way that makes the most sense to them.
However, this culture-driven approach can be difficult to cultivate and isn’t always the norm. Why? I have personally experienced both a culture-driven process environment, as well as a mandated process environment, and the differences for me lied in personalities, working styles, and leadership styles. You must have self-starters – people who see problems and fix them. You must have people who believe in what they’re doing and care enough about what they are contributing to make the processes work. But probably most importantly, you must have a leadership team who empowers their people to own processes and believe in them to ultimately achieve their goals.
The unruly aspect about maintaining a great culture-driven process is that it’s almost always threatened. As people enter and exit the organization, and as pieces of the business that affect the process change, it’s important for the action-takers to continue revisiting the process and refining it – to understand that, as with the culture, it’s a living, breathing entity.
Another important contributor to a successful culture-driven process is to remember when the process breaks, it’s not always someone’s fault. Things change, and that’s okay. Don’t concern yourself with blame, and rather consider the root of why it faltered and fix the breaking point. Processes should be so fluid, just like your organization’s culture, that it’s second nature.
After ruminating myself, I did some digging and noticed that Michael Lopp has written further on this topic here.
Most importantly, as Lopp points out, make sure your organization’s process can always defend itself.
Learn more about Michael Lopp and connect with him on Twitter @rands.