3-14 2013 flat tire

Have you ever ridden a bicycle with a flat tire? A flat seriously affects the amount of effort needed to move the bike. Broken application development and maintenance processes have a similar impact. Process problems can slow delivery by requiring extra testing, extra reviews and added hurdles for implementation to ensure work is done correctly. This added work robs the organization of the added value that could have been delivered if the extra burden could be avoided.

Fixing the problem is not always easy or convenient. Assuming that each new test or review step in the process made sense when it was added, why would it make sense not to do it now? Once, I had to walk my bike all the way to end of the block, just to discover that I did not have a quarter for air. I had to walk the bike back home to get the money and then walk all the way back – highly inconvenient. I added a step to my mental checklist, never go for air without checking that I had a quarter. The process is now one step longer. We evolve processes we use to do work in a very similar manner; one step at a time.

Why don’t we stop work and redesign all processes from scratch? The amount of work required would be daunting. The perception of the change would also be daunting. Since we got into this mess one step at a time, I would suggest that we can get out one step at a time. Incremental change driven by frequent project retrospectives combined with transparent organizational goals is a great mechanism for continuous change. Paraphrasing W. Edwards Deming, we will need constancy of purpose to make continuous process improvement payoff but with that constancy of purpose we won’t need overwhelming changes that could leave the organization feeling like they are riding on a flat tire.