Process evolved: the experiment

Photo by Louis Reed on Unsplash

Is your team scared to change their process? Are they endlessly evaluating or arguing over different options and their pros and cons? As an industry, we practice fast experimentation with new products and technologies; frequently releasing, getting feedback, iterating, and learning. So why do we resist doing this with our processes?

Process is not something to hold sacred. Process should evolve. We need to inspect and adapt process as circumstances change. You can retrospect on your process just as you do your work.

So how can we make this easier for ourselves to do?

Try running a process change as a short experiment.

Try running a process change as a short experiment. Treat that experiment as a release just like a product experiment. Run the experiment for a period of time and then evaluate how it performed.

Nothing is permanent, but sometimes it’s hard to see that. Psychologically, people are more likely to resist a change if they view it as permanent; even if they don’t feel strongly about it. In my experience most people are willing to make a change as a short experiment regardless of how they feel about it. This even includes cases where people disagree with the change.

It’s only an experiment

The key is committing to make the change as a short experiment only. No permanent decisions or changes are made. Set the experiment period to be short enough not to feel like a significant commitment, but long enough to get a sense of whether it’s an improvement. Here are some examples:

      • Try a new type of meeting or meeting format X times. For example, try a different daily standup format for a week
      • Try cancelling, shortening or having a meeting less often for 4 weeks and see what happens
      • Experiment with development iteration length for a few iterations. For example, if you are using fixed 2 week sprints, try varying the length based on your actual goals.
      • Try a change to your project planning process. For example, require the next project to have a formal kick-off or pre-mortem meeting.

Meeting hygiene is one of the places I find these experiments especially shine. Meetings tend to require re-evaluation over time. They don’t get evolved as often as they should. How many times have you found yourself sitting in a recurring meeting thinking it has run its course?

Commit to a date to re-evaluate

It’s really important that you set a date to re-evaluate. It’s easy to have something continue in perpetuity unintentionally. If you practice retrospectives, that’s a great place to discuss and reflect on the experiment. After you re-evaluate, you can extend the experiment if you like. Perhaps you decide its promising, but it needs another round. That’s OK!

Conclusion

Next time you’re struggling with analysis paralysis or waffling on a process change, try running the change as a short experiment. You’ve got very little to lose and a lot to gain. In small steps you can evolve your process over time to be more effective with minimum angst or upheaval along the way.

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