Can we live without process in organizations, projects, life, etc? Sure we can! But do we really want to?

Can we live without process in organizations, projects, life, etc? Sure we can! But do we really want to?

I have worked and participated in organizations that have varied levels of process and more important, processes that are well defined or documented. While many can exist in ad hoc states both organizationally as well as individually, to execute at the highest level I believe it requires process.

Where does the formalization of processes hurt? And where does it help? You can make the case those organizations that are creative and on the “bleeding edge” of new product creation/innovation need less process (structure)…process hurts. In these organizations being unbound by the constraints of “how we’ve done it in the past” or not burdened by the weight of formalized processes, seems to make creativity flow. How nice would it be to live in a free unconstrained world? I’m sure that we would all think that’s great. But is that reality? I don’t think so.

Even in the most creative and innovative companies there are processes. There must be, or else the company may not survive and certainly won’t thrive in the long run.

Recently, I did some work for a completely volunteer based non-profit organization that had several client projects going on concurrently. Many individuals (skilled and non-skilled), contributing organizations (paid for and donated services) and project managers (internal and external) were involved in these projects. There was lots of moving parts. Several critical elements had to be done well to ensure success. Fortunately many were, and large scale disasters were avoided.

In retrospect, the President of the Board of Directors and I were having a discussion about the some of the issues he experienced. He kept coming back to the fact that if any one of these projects went bad, it could be a severe black eye and unneeded bad press for the organization, regardless of all the good work done. This is an organization where it was critical to have happy clients, good press and goodwill to keep its fundraising (the lifeblood of the organization) at the highest levels.
My question to him was what was your process to assure against this? Was there a plan (process) in place to mitigate the risks? Were there processes in place for the following things:

• How to execute the project(s), ex. step by step guidelines for the people that who are actually doing the work?
• What was success and how did you identify when you achieved that state?
• How were small and large projects executed to meet the organization’s standards for quality, custom satisfaction, follow-up, etc.?
• What was the plan for on the ground coordination, especially in the event that volunteers and/or people who were not familiar with the organization’s goals and objectives, mission, success criteria, etc.?
• What was your communication process before, during and after the project(s)?

As simple and obvious as some of these things may seem, without processes in place to address them, they may remain simply unattained. This is where having processes helps.

Quite often an individual may have many such factors internalized and thought of. However, it has been my experience that when you work in a more than a one person band, such as an organization, it is difficult for all to get on the same page or march to the same tune, without some formalized set of processes.

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