Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A bad process is like a flat tire

Does doing it wrong quickly mean going slowly? I don't think so. Instead, apply the get-'er-done mentality to the sources of drag on your project to make your projects successful.

I know someone once got a flat tire on the way home from work in a blizzard, back in the days before cell phones and roadside help. Considering the options, the driver decided to slow down and drive on home. Stopping would have required doing the work in low visibility on the gravel hard pack of a busy 2-lane roadside with a great deal of discomfort and possibly frostbite. Home was minutes away, and road conditions required slow travel anyway. The driver arrived home in about twice the time it normally took for the commute. Sometimes, driving on a flat tire does make sense: when the risks of stopping are great and when the route to your destination is clearly ahead.

In business, sometimes a bad process acts like a flat tire. No one wants to take the time to stop and fix it, so instead the length of time for the project stretches out interminably ahead. A car needs four good tires otherwise steering and direction changes are limited - plus you could damage the car by driving on a flat. Similarly, a faulty business process limits agility for a project and may damage the team's functioning. In a car, with that flat tire to worry about, suddenly your destination may change. Should you head into the dealership, or your friend's uncle's garage, or keep heading home? With a faulty business process, the project direction may also suffer from unclear direction.

Used Tires
I say if you find yourself dealing with a bad process, advocate fixing it. If you can, fix it yourself. You don't need a permanent solution although setting a precedent is nice. Call the project team together and move on with the 'fix-a-flat' approach - take half a day and figure out how, for this project, a temporary but workable process can be created.

And if your project succeeds, then you've got an especially good case to make for making your improvised process permanent.
Image courtesy of via Flickr

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