Monday, 4 March 2013

It’s People then Process then Tools/Tech

. . . in that order!

A recent group discussion and one poster’s experience about people who just don’t seem to ‘get’ this and others who blame the tool has kicked up my ire. And equally from a humorous perspective is reminding me of the joke about a guy who throws his clubs in a lake after having a bad round of golf.

For me, having Ishikawa diagrams, 5-whys, reality trees, etc in my toolbox to do RCAs, ensuring plans are comprehensive, etc are great but that's just it. They are tools to visually represent how well we've analyzed what needs to be addressed. And like any tool, it can be misused. Ever seen anyone try to use a screwdriver as a hammer? How about a wrench as a hammer?  :-) 

I'm a visual learner myself, know others are too, and appreciate that not everyone else is. As an example, the fishbone diagram (when appropriate) I find is something best used to record what was discussed. Thus, early in the process, I've historically found it's best used as a mental tool and left at that. Pulling it out too early sometimes causes people just go through the motions of populating the bones rather than thinking about what should be populated on them.

Now, anyone who turns the People --> Process --> Tools/Tech workflow on it's head and makes the tool or the process paramount is doing something that is at its very least "counter intuitive." And at this point, some may say “Hey, you’re pretty much constrained to HTML, Javascript and CSS to create a website. And they’re all tools/tech!” And to that I would say “yes, yes they are.” And then I’d ask those people what websites they know of that were designed to serve another website.

The tool/tech cannot ever be paramount to the people or the process it is there to serve; whether or not the problem is open-ended or not. Procedures to help share knowledge to less experienced others creates progress and as such are typically very good. Procedures used to constrain thought in any ethical problem solving paradigm into predefined boxes will only serve to create mental RSIs (Repetitive Strain Injuries) and tend to be very bad at creating value-added solutions. Again, let's note that in such cases it is the people creating the problem; not the process or the tool. 

At the risk of heading down a rat hole, picking up a gauntlet, whatever, ...  Yes, I too have encountered a lot of useless tools over the path of my professional career, but they were all people. :-) LOL   

The overwhelmingly vast majority of people I’ve worked with over the last 30+ years, went to school with, or had as professors could in no way be considered blind lemmings who’d follow a process just because it exists and it’s easier than thinking. Anyone who is living with this reality I would suggest has a very depressing reality. I can honestly and thankfully say that does not apply where I am, nor I suspect do the vast majority of other people either.

Oh, BTW, the article that drove all of this ….