03 July 2009

Process Ownership Redux

As a guy who writes a lot, I have a real fondness for phrases and try to make a note of particularly elegant and insightful combinations of words. I recently came across the phrase "remote from the consequences" in an article in The Week (a magazine I really enjoy and highly recommend, btw), and I quickly developed a word crush.

It's a dangerous thing for decision makers to be "remote from the consequences" of their decisions and actions. I'm thinking about project leaders in particular, but I'm sure it applies to other situations too. Remoteness leads to all sorts of things that sound good on paper but don't work so well in reality (unbeknownst to those who are remote), or situations where benefits convey to one (remote) group while costs are borne by those who are more proximiate to the consequences.

This ties back to an earlier post about how process should be a team asset rather than a corporate asset. We could say it this way: processes should not belong to those who are remote from the consequences. Process belongs in the hands of the proximate.


Don C said...

A couple of thoughts.

What does it mean to "own" a process? Or rather when you talk about projects owning the process, what aspect of ownership are you referring to?

I see process as being potentially beneficial in two ways. One is as a defense against arbitrary interference from the higher-ups/politicially powerful. Though that I suspect is sadly uncommon.

The other is as a "knowledge management" tool - a way to communicate the lessons of experience to those who are less experienced in a form that's readily useful for the work at hand. In this context, I want the experienced people to own the process, in terms of creating/defining/updating it. Own the process documenation, might be the way to say it.

The bad use of process , as you abundantly point out, is as an algorithm to "program" people to do the work. An attempt to turn people into replacable human resource units.

The Dan Ward said...

Nicely said, Don!