“A person must have something to cling to. Without that, they are like a pea vine sprawling in search of a trellis.”— E.B. White

What is a process? The answer is not always obvious.

Sometimes people find process to be a “heavy” concept. They may believe that process slows things down or that the only thing it does is generate more paperwork.

Other people may have the opposite belief. They might think that having a process means that everything will always go smoothly. They want to believe that a good process results in universal harmony and agreement between all people who use it.

So what is a process? 

One way to understand process is to think of a trellis. We have a wooden trellis outside of our living room window. Its framework lifts our trumpet vine and grape vines as they grow. The trellis supports the vines’ weight even though they have grown quite large.

A process is like this; it supports the work that needs to be done. It allows content to be collaborated on, enabling better communication. A good process will make roles and responsibilities clear. A great process will make decision-making clear.

However, a process will not automatically make all people happy. For example, decisions will always need to be made throughout development work. Making decisions means that some things get pruned back to allow other items to flourish. This is akin to the competition between our grapevines and our trumpet vine. We value the dense shade and flowers that the trumpet vine provides, but we need to keep it from overtaking the space that the grapes need to grow. There are times when not everyone will be happy, no matter how good the process is.

The best processes are owned by the people who need to use them. These process owners should strive to get agreements about the purpose of the process before work begins. They must detail the steps so that they understand how they intend to work together as a team.

And when the work begins, the team should follow the process they have developed. 

When the team finds they have issues with the content they are working on, they should be careful not to blame the process. We could blame the trellis for making the trumpet vine too successful, but that would be silly.

The team’s job is to use the process, improve the process, maintain the process, and mainly keep working with the process to accomplish good things.

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,

Alan Willett

Photo by Bailey Gullo on Unsplash

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