Don’t blame the process

This MQ article on decision-making raises the recurring theme of ‘process’ as a pejorative term:

The word “process”

It’s boring.

It immediately conjures up images of bureaucracy and slowness and decisions by committee—all things associated with bad management.

This reminds me of a recent experience at a startup. “Let me know if there’s anything you need”, said the founder.

I nearly didn’t ask. My corporate conditioning had taught me to expect a stifling blanket of paperwork, admin, discussions, meetings and general hassle. A horrible process.

red tape

These guys should be different, I thought.  I’ll give it a go…

“I need a Balsamiq licence” (a nifty piece of software for creating low-fi wireframe sketches of user interfaces)

Ten minutes later and I’m knocking up wireframes in Balsamiq. I couldn’t believe it. Zero bureaucracy. So refreshing.

What multiples of the fee ($79 for an annual single-user licence) would the average corporate have incurred in labour costs for the time of those making this decision?

‘Process’ gets a bad rap. It’s really just poor thinking and process design that’s to blame.

Digital redistribution

(Photo Credit BreS via Flickr)
(Photo credit: BreS via Flickr)

They are dropping like flies.

First Blockbuster and Kodak. Now Comet, Jessops, and HMV in quick succession. Who next?

Businesses are having a hard time adjusting to the new rules of the digital era and today’s economy is unforgiving.

Part of me is nostalgic for these businesses; the job loss stats are frightening and I’m old enough to remember the failed “Use it or lose it” campaign of our village post office in the 80s.  The other part of me knows that these businesses were designed for an era that no longer exists. They’ve served their time. Under better economic conditions they might struggle on but deep down we know they are better off in business heaven.

So the privilege to turn a profit on the distribution of music, film, cameras, and consumer electricals is redistributed to a first wave of businesses designed for the emerging digital age. Spotify, Amazon, iTunes, Lovefilm, Netflix etc haven’t had to convert themselves from analogue; they weren’t anchored to legacy business models, infrastructure and thinking. They had a blank piece of paper, the courage to try something new, and a healthy dose of luck.

(Photo credit: Todd Robinson via Tumblr)
(Drawing credit: Todd Robinson via Tumblr)

To blame the likes of Amazon and Apple for the demise of HMV and Co is to deceive ourselves. We consumers killed these companies through our purchasing choices. By showrooming to handle a camera at Jessops and pick the brain of the sales agent before going home to think about it buy it on Amazon. We’ve all done it. By giving 30% of our money for iTunes songs and apps directly to Apple instead of shopping in HMV. By buying Amazon gift vouchers. There’s no judgement here; that’s just how it is.

The New Year brought some financial housekeeping to the Tatman household. Our bank statements reveal the extent and spread of our digital reliance through subscriptions and online shopping receipts. Specialist sports retailer Wiggle won last month’s battle but Amazon will no doubt reign supreme again this month.

Such specialists have some hope for survival in the digital era. Wiggle can sell me a commodity item like a mass-market bike pedal far cheaper than my local cycle shop. But if I want expert tailored advice on fitting and usage then local specialist wins every time (AthleteService in Henley). Wiggle can’t watch me pedal and give me adjustment guidance via Skype. This service hasn’t been digitised. Yet.

So the music and video incumbents have been displaced as the medium becomes purely digital. What products and services will be next? For other industries the patterns and warnings are there to learn from.

One predictable thing about change is its unpredictability. It’s early days for the digital era so I expect plenty more digital redistribution along the way as business models are tested and today’s winners are disrupted. This cycle of creative disruption, of births and deaths in business is nothing new; it’s survival of the fittest out there and always has been.

Exciting times.

 

It’s not about the document

What proportion of your working life do you spend working on documents? Reports, specs, plans, presentations, etc. The routine paraphernalia of knowledge workers. Paperwork.

It’s a trap. Isn’t it?

We become caught up in the trivialities of layout preferences, wrestling with MS Word settings, and distracted by inane presentation animations. And then there’s the dreaded group approval/sign-off process:

Can you change the font here please? I don’t like the grammar, a diagram, this detail, etc, etc…

We try to manage documents but they end up managing us.

Continue reading It’s not about the document