You probably need less process.

What do you want out of your team processes?

This seems like a straightforward question: enable you to achieve your goals, or Create Excellence, or something similarly vague and tactically meaningless.

But what do you actually want out of your team processes? What specific effects do you want them to have? What guidance and constraints? Just as important: what don’t you want?

It’s tempting to throw process to the wind and just announce: We’ll Aim For The Goal And Hit It. There are some teams that can pull this off! They’re usually very small, very talented, and very self-motivated. If you think you have one, you should try it! But you should also be prepared for the likely outcome that you’ll be setting your team up for disappointment, and be ready to re-add some scaffolding.

Especially in response to team disappointment, chatter, chaos, and the like, it’s also tempting to define a process for everything. You pre-define deliverables, dates, each communication step, enforce squash merges on your Git host, have an SLA on Slack messages with a rotating on-call person to respond to them with a specific script, have recurring agenda-led meetings to discuss the agenda for other ceremony meetings, and so on. Your primary communication tool is JIRA. This inevitably creates so much overhead that you’re all stuck doing so much metawork that you don’t do any actual work, and delivery grinds to a halt.

The prescription: add enough process to define the bare minimum someone would have to do to not get fired for sheer incompetence. When you find the need to adjust, do so reflectively and responsively, not as a reaction to prevent a mistake from recurring. The solution to someone making a mistake in isolation is better team communication, not an otherwise meaningless ceremony that creates overhead in perpetuity.

Provide a floor to people’s work, not a ceiling.

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