Usage of process is not success

Processes are important and beneficial. They streamline the workflows, help people make fewer mistakes and bring some degree of comfort - people tend to think that if we have a process, then we already achieved some degree of success.

At Intercom, we have a very strong culture of solving the right problems. We are ruthless around defining what the true problem is, how we solve it using a cupcake and how eventually might it look like if the cupcake proves to be successful. To put it short - what is the problem and how will you measure that it’s solved. Take a step back and try to apply the same approach whenever you want to add new or adjust existing process.

Whenever you are designing a new process, the most important and the hardest parts will be to clearly define the problem. It’s crucial to not skip this step. If you don’t identify the problem clearly, why are you even starting? It’s a sign of tendency for bureaucracy - don’t go this way. This is the first step to make your people thinking “we became a corporation”. Processes are agile. They are innovating. They let you move fast. But only if you solve proper problems with them.

When you have a good understanding of the problem, define the success criteria for your process. Don’t start with the process, start with what the success looks like. Starting from success gets rid of your biases around the design (what you are familiar with, what you are comfortable with, etc.) and focus on the best outcome possible. This defines the true success of the process. The usage of the process is not a success. Usage without value is a clear failure.

It’s easy to get into the trap of the “usage is a success” in situations of high discomfort. If you feel uncomfortable with the current level of structure around you, you start thinking about improving the structure and introducing processes. Sole usage of the processes will introduce more structure, that’s true. But, if processes don’t solve real problems and are not being constantly improved to meet the success criteria, they make people stop innovating and harm your culture.

Subscribe for new posts!

I post every 2-3 weeks and always with lessons related to software engineering managers. I won't use your email in any other way!