If you have seen the TV documentary series Hoarders which depicted the real-life struggles of people who suffer from compulsive hoarding. Some victims suffered so severely that they were often drowning within their own filth. The disorder is immediately obvious to family and friends.
Similarly, organizations today are process hoarders. A large number of processes have been built for some purpose at a point in time that no longer serves its purpose. What commonly happens is that new processes are added in isolation without seeing how they all work in concert. The danger with continually adding processes is that organizations can’t see the process hoarding until it’s too late. Process hoarding is not immediately visible. It has reached the boiling point now as as organizations in pursuit to get products out faster are being suffocated by a pile of inefeffective and redundant processeses. All these processes need to be mapped into a big visual picture for us to analyze how an idea turns into revenue.
If we can’t see the processes of our organizations, how can we observe and improve them?
How do organizations see its process hoarding?
Visualization is the process of creating the big visual picture to represent what is occurring within the organization. It yields a graphical representation of the organization's processes. Visualizing the process is a team sport. This allows for group collaboration to generate ideas for experiments to improve the process. The people that work within the process should be the ones that work to improve them. Working in a highly collaborative group environment will increase validity, employee buy-in and reduce individual blind spots. The experiments allow the organization to test multiple ideas instead of just selecting one. Check out Jason Little’s book titled Lean Change Management if you would like to learn more about visualizations through experiments.
In any agile framework (e.g. Scrum), we’ve provided the Engineering teams (or IT teams) a structure where they can work transparently and are able to inspect, adapt and continually change. Working transparently minimizes the process hoarding by increasing the visibility of our work where everyone can see the system under the same lens. This will be a difficult change to adopt for some, however, innovation does not come without change and change does not come without pain.
Before adding new processes, I encourage you to take a step back and ask yourself “Is there anything that can be replaced with this new process?”. If so, eliminate the redundancies until the organization is as flat as possible. If you wait until you’re suffocating by a pile of processes, the processes will grow to in complexity and be more difficult to eliminate.
Do yourself a favour and continually keep your house clean!