Knowing what should not be done is rarely this straightforward.

Knowing what should not be done is rarely this straightforward.


A quick reminder I am running a poll to choose the next book for re-read Saturday. The poll remains open for another week. Currently Goldratt’s The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement is topping the list, BUT the just a few votes could change the book at the top of the list very quickly. The poll is republished at the bottom of this post.

Management guru Peter Drucker said “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.” Two powerful types of techniques to identify work that should not be done are process mapping, and baselining and benchmarking.

Process Mapping – A process map focuses on the capturing and documenting the sequence of tasks and activities that comprise the process. A process map is generally constrained to a specific set of activities within a broader organization. Process mapping is useful at a tactical level while other mapping techniques like value chain mapping are often more useful when taking an organizational view. Developing a process map (of any type) allows an analyst to review each step in the process to determine whether they add value. Steps that do not add value should be evaluated for removal.

Baselining and Benchmarking – There are two typical approaches to benchmarking. The first is through measurement of the process to generate a baseline.  Once a baseline is established, that baseline can be then be compared to another baseline to generate a benchmark. This type of benchmark is often called a quantitative benchmark. The second type of a benchmark compares the steps and activities required in a process to a process that yields a similar product. Comparisons to frameworks such as the TMMi, CMMI or Scrum are a form of process benchmarking.

The use of analytical techniques such as process mapping or benchmarking is important to ensure that opinions and organizational politics don’t outweigh processes or work steps that generate real value. Without analysis, it is easy to sit down with an individual or a team and ask them what should not be done and get the wrong answer. Everyone has an opinion informed by his or her own experiences and biases. Unfortunately, just asking may identify a process or task that one person or team feels is not useful but has value to the larger organization. For example, a number of years ago an organization I was working with had instituted a productivity and customer satisfaction measurement program. The software teams involved in the program saw the effort needed to measure their work as overhead. The unstated goal of the program was to gather the information needed to resist outsourcing the development jobs in the organization. The goal was not shared for fear of increasing turnover and of angering the CFO who pushing for outsourcing.

It would be difficult to argue that that doing work that should not be done makes sense. However determining “that which should not be done” is generally harder than walking up to a team and pointing to specific tasks. There is nothing wrong with asking individuals and teams involved in a process for their input, but the core of all process changes needs to be to gathering data to validate or negate opinions.

Re-read Saturday poll – vote for up to three books!