Process, not bureaucracy

Subject: Process, not bureaucracy
From: SteveFJong -at- aol -dot- com
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Date: Sat, 4 Sep 1999 16:58:08 EDT

Andrew Plato <intrepid_es -at- yahoo -dot- com> has again stirred the pot, this time
about the Process Maturity Model, with his novel assertion that those who
advocate greater process seek "the freedom to be bureaucratic and lazy."
Yikes! I thought we were just trying to figure out how to do our jobs better
without working 20 hours a week unpaid overtime to do it. I would like to
make a distinction between process, which is our friend, and bureaucracy,
which is not.

To begin with, Andrew, there's a logical flaw in your argument: "[I]f you
develop efficient process models, you will reduce work load. But you will
not become a more productive or profitable organization. Efficiency does not
always equal productivity... Efficiency gives the illusion of productivity."
Well, efficiency may not always equal productivity, but sometimes it does,
and thus sometimes it improves productivity. Efficiency is the only way to
scale up without staffing up. My company sells some of our software to
clients for replication throughout their organization; we give them a single
CD-ROM, which we build by hand. It takes us day or two to make a new one. We
could never sell mass-market software this way.

You also wrote, "Imagine if Ford had to retool the assembly line each time a
new car was produced. They would go broke in a day." True! But in the
software industry, many companies, even big ones, *do* retool their assembly
lines each time--that is, they do things differently every release--because
they're unaware don't see that they're in the business of manufacturing
software. Indeed, most of them do go broke. Process, at the simplest level,
means knowing how to do things; lack of process is simply not knowing how to
do things.

In a chaotic (Level 0 or 1) organization, all things, good and bad, exist
simultaneously. To me, a chaotic organization gives me the freedom to ignore
what works for the next person, what works for the competition, and what
worked last time, all in the name of freedom. A chaotic organization can have
four products, one of which is well tested with excellent documentation; the
other three can stink. The next release, it could change completely. In a
chaotic organization, you never know what's going to happen. Would you buy
from them?

From my perspective as a manager, process helps me ensure that when someone
does good work, everyone can learn to do as well. It also means if I know
what works, I can ensure everyone does it. This doesn't preclude improvement
or creativity, but it does promote consistency and solid results.

-- Steve

Steven Jong, Documentation Team Manager ("Typo? What tpyo?")
Lightbridge, Inc., 67 South Bedford St., Burlington, MA 01803 USA
mailto:jong -at- lightbridge -dot- com -dot- nospam 781.359.4902 [voice]
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