The end of process?!?! Are you nuts???

Recently I have been seeing a large number of links to Ross Mayfield’s blog post called the End Of Process. The article seems to go into a number of different directions but at the heart I think is that organizations put too much faith in rigid processes and that is generally bad. I would partially agree. Any rigid process is a bad thing. Unless you can guarantee that none of the variables you encounter in your business will ever change, then a rigid process is almost always a bad thing. But the simplification of that idea into “The End of the Process” I totally disagree with.

Processes are good, automating those processes (where appropriate) is good (Hopefully you will use my employer’s toolset to do it, but there are plenty of competitors here too). But never give in to the process and accept that it can never change. Change is good.

So I mentioned ‘where appropriate’. Where is it appropriate to document a process and where is it appropriate to automate it? I would like to think that it is always good to document significant processes, as long as everyone involved knows its a living document that will change as all the variables (internal and external people, places, rules, etc) change. What is a significant process? Well, I think that any series of steps you perform over and over again for a while is significant enough. And if more than one person is involved, the chances of it being significant goes way up. The point of the documentation is to ensure that you remember the process,and/or the organization doesn’t fail when you get hit by a bus. Another perhaps more important reason is to enable everyone to see how a process works and who to go to for more information on any of the steps.

Now that you have a document, when is it ‘appropriate’ to create an automated workflow? Well, anytime you automate something its going to have a cost. Even with such easy to use tools as Captaris Workflow, its going to take time and money to get it done right and to manage it. So if the return on investment is acceptable, it probably makes sense to automate that process. But again, processes should not be rigid and whatever framework you choose for your workflow, it should be able to accept changes easily. The costs of these changes should be figured into your ROI calculations.

What are some typical processes that are good candidates for automation? Many of our customers get excited about being able to easily create workflows around their expenses, travel, and legal processes. Chances are, the way you purchase plane tickets has been roughly the same for the last few months and will probably be roughly the same for a few more months.  Same can be said for your expenses and for getting documents approved by your lawyers. Each of these processes often involve several people and at any step, some people will want to know where everything is. They all take time to complete and being able to shave a few minutes or days off a process often equates to real costs being saved. Processes like these are good candidates for automation.

But one of the processes mentioned in the article is exactly the type of process that should never be automated. In fact, since there is a strong tendency to put too much faith in anything in print, there may be reason not to ever document it.  The processes is that around innovating. I don’t know how an organization could ever put a process in place around innovating. Perhaps Ross was referring to taking an idea that has been fleshed out to the next level, but as he mentioned, there are so many exceptions to the rules here that a defined process probably harms more than helps.

I think Ross and I are saying roughly the same thing. But I think lots of readers have latched on to the title and read more into that without actually looking at the article. Processes are here and will always be here. We need them to get the more regular parts of our working lives done. I like processes because I don’t want to have to reinvent how to get something done every time I want to get it done.

Sushi around the world

One of the types of restaurants I go to in every city I visit is Sushi. I love it. I eat it everywhere. Some sushi restaurants are wonderful, lots of others really suck. Since moving to Amsterdam I have tried 3 or 4 there and, well, they aren’t great. I am told the restaurant in the big Japanese hotel towards the southern edge of the city is very good, but I haven’t tried it yet. Of course, as you would expect, most of the sushi spots in San Francisco and Seattle are absolutely magnificent. But then there are a few cities where I would expect crap sushi and find some of the best quality fish I have ever had. Zagreb is definitely one of those surprises. I went to Takenoko tonight in the Kaptol Centar mall. The quality of the fish was absolutely amazing. Unfortunately the quality of the service was among the worst restaurants on the planet. But the the fish allowed me to get past that. If you are in Zagreb, want a wonderful Japanese meal, and feel like getting ignored for much of the evening while waiting for some amazing rolls, then Takenoko is definitely worth a visit. And as long as I am mentioning surprise sushi spots, another that comes to mind was about a block away from the main Mormon temple in Salt Lake City. I don’t know how these places do it, but this restaurant (forgot the name) sticks in my mind as a source for very fresh and high quality fish. Zagreb and Salt Lake City….whodathunk…

Cool invitation site.

OK, now this is cool. Meetwithapproval.com is a site like evite and many others that allow you to send invites for a meeting, party, or other event to a bunch of people. But often an exact time doesn’t work out for everyone at first. Gradually you come up with a good time that works for all…but changing those details is problematic on evite, plus there is that whole registration thing. Here is a cooler way to go: no registration, and everyone invited can (if allowed by the organizer) suggest new times/days to meet. They can also (again, if allowed by the organizer) invite others.The combination of no registration, free, and easily suggesting new times makes this a killer web site!!! I found this link at WorkHappy.

An extra day in Zagreb

It seems the Customs office is having a difficult time with my laptops and has delayed their entry. They were supposed to be delivered on Friday, but they didn’t even arrive into the country until early this morning….and customs doesn’t want to release. So class is delayed till tomorrow. The plus side of this is that I get an extra day in Zagreb. There are definitely worse places in the world to get stuck.