Friday, August 13, 2010

If only we had more process…

TC spent some time in the south this week, in some organizational quarterly review meetings. There was, as always, a gripe session on salaries (everyone's bonus scheme is ALWAYS unfair. Always.) and a gripe session on organizational alignment (Organizations are never well enough aligned. Never.)


While I'm nearly certain I was the youngest person in the room, I couldn't figure out why I was also among the most cynical about organizational processes. Sure, we can revamp our process. We can set better requirements. We can act as stronger gatekeepers of our own time. But, let's face it – when something important comes up (and it always does. Daily), you WILL be working overtime to make it happen. No amount of rules of engagement will prevent that.


If only team X respected our time. If only team Y knew our priorities, and aligned to them. (and not us, aligning to theirs – btw) If only every single product launch had the same standard set of deliverables. If only we could control the number of stakeholders in a meeting. If only we could coordinate calendars to get everyone in the same room twice a year. I'm sure I've seen that list 10 times in my relatively-short career.


There is no organizational utopia. No amount of alignment and planning will prevent people from starting new initiatives, coming up with new document formats or changing their plans for Q4. Similarly, nothing will make a clipboard person more strategic, make someone like me worry deeply about email blasts, or make that guy in that other team not hate us, intrinsically.


Maybe the alternative isn't rigidity but systematic flexibility. Transparency. Collaboration. Instead of taskmasters and clipboards and workhorses and slaves, why not foster a culture of a flexible group.. together banding together to work on all the priorities? Creating walls and process between the few people who might have a chance of caring that you're swamped, who might have a similar goal, who might actually have visibility into the workload you're carrying – how can that help? 


But, as with all things… that might be a great idea, but it is awful hard to institutionalize. That's a team-by-team behavior. To formalize it and repeat it would require… process. The very thing it seeks to avoid.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

I would expand upon what you have written, but honestly, there is nothing more to say. NICELY put my non-clipboard, strategically thinking, overworked / under-bonused friend. :)