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It’s the Process Problem!- Part II

In part i of this post series, I discussed importance of process thinking. When I talk about “process”, I am generally talking about a broad range of processes / policies / habits that help us to deal with a recurring problem. While one of a kind act of excellence might help us solve a problem one time, process helps us deal with that problem on repeated basis. I am trying to understand why Eastern societies, with notable exceptions like Japan, overall does not do a good job in process thinking. Is it something in our culture? Here are some common misconceptions/ mental blocks that we need to address.

## Process thinking, process improvement is management / corporate stuff and has no use in daily life:

Process thinking / process improvement has become a management jargon, a buzzword of some sort, which gets thrown around a lot in corporate culture. But it can be equally effective in many areas of life, including personal life. Here are some things that I tried. If you have some other examples to offer, please write in comments.

Yahoogroups process:
A while back, I created this process for the yahoo group I was admin of.

To create new discussion thread,
1. Create a fresh new mail. Do open existing mail and hit reply. Because a lot of irrelevent text is carried into new discussion.
2. Type a clear subject. Be descriptive, but specific. “What happened?” is not a good subject. But “What happened to Amitabh Bachhan?” is good.
3. Type your message. Use true type fonts. Do not type using capital letters.
4. Attach images if desired. Do not attach more than 5 images. Do not exceed attachment size 2 MB.

To reply to an existing thread,
1. Open the last email in the thread and reply.

This process significantly improved the quality of discussions. …

There was another “personal process improvement” I did that has saved me some money and some trouble over time. It’s pretty simple. I created a checklist to follow before leaving home –
1. Turn of fridge.
2. Turn off TV.
3. Turn off washer and dryer. Make sure no wet clothes left in washer.
4. Turn of water taps.
7. If it’s freezing winter, leave home heater running at very low temperature.
8. Lock the windows. Close curtains.
6. Turn off lights.
9. Lock the door.

Note that the sequence of turning of is important as well. You should turn off lights at the last. That’s common sense, but you could mess things up in hurry, so better to describe it explicitly.

##To begin,  you must draft the perfect process.
This is another giant mistake. In fact, the process can be never be perfect to begin with. All you do at first is do a little introspection and list the steps you know are the best steps to solve the problem. That’s the first process draft.

## Process must be binding and must be enforceable.

Absolutely not true. Process could be just a recommended process. You don’t need to have authority to enforce the process to recommend the process. In fact that is the real talent. Creating a process, so effective that the advantage of following that process itself will be enough to convince the users to follow it. As mentioned above, I created a yahoogroups process that many of the subscribers liked and followed. Some did not follow. Still overall the quality of communication improved.

## How can you create a process for something?  You don’t know what will happen tomorrow:
There is perhaps the giant block, notably Indian culture, that discourages process centric thinking. We tend to think of nature and universe as something completely unpredictable. And if something is really not predictable, you cannot design a process to deal with it. Anything can happen tomorrow, so why bother preparing? This is not true. Part of the world is unpredictable. But part of the world is predictable. And defining processes to deal with the predictable part leaves us in much better position to deal with the unpredictable part.

One Response

  1. Zune and iPod: Most people compare the Zune to the Touch, but after seeing how slim and surprisingly small and light it is, I consider it to be a rather unique hybrid that combines qualities of both the Touch and the Nano. It’s very colorful and lovely OLED screen is slightly smaller than the touch screen, but the player itself feels quite a bit smaller and lighter. It weighs about 2/3 as much, and is noticeably smaller in width and height, while being just a hair thicker.

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