In Lean there is a concept known as “standard work”. A game around standard work is to define the elements of work to a point that they are standardized and predictable. The theory goes that the highest evolution of management is to understand exactly how something is made will allow us to make a whole lot of it cheaply and with no risk.
At that point you can write a really tight job description and get the absolute best people for the job.
So, we’ve been trying to do this in software for years. Chasing the grail of standard work. First, waterfall ignored it. RUP tried to institutionalize it. Scrum even took a stab at it. Kanban has dangerous rhetoric around it.
So, let’s take a look at standard work.
Below is a quick HD video about standard work, it will fully train you in your new position at Modus Cooperandi.
Standard work tends to be this dull.
For knowledge work, the more systems we create that are this dull, the more we detract from the creation elements of work. For example, one of the repetitive tasks I have to do is accounting. It’s pretty much digging through one pile of numbers and moving them into some other system. It bores me to death and does not, in any way, get me excited to create new, interesting things the rest of the day.
I’ve worked for companies that have gone through ugly ISO 900x processes that have left people with forms to complete to fill out more forms. Very standard work, very soul crushing.
I’ve seen teams whose stand-up meetings have become standard work, in this sense. They show up, mumble perfunctory nothings about what they did and what they are going to do. No one listens to them, they don’t listen to anyone else.
Agile tries to build itself constructive rituals – but they can become staid. Lean tries to help understand variation – but the drive for this can become over standardization.
The goal is to produce value. Producing value is fun. Stand up meetings without a soul begin a day without a soul. Processes that reduce work to ultra-defined chunks, reduce creativity to ultra-defined chunks.
When we are in knowledge work, and the goal is creating new knowledge and artifacts, reducing creativity is reducing profit potential and sustainability.
Beware as you head forward that your process does not kill your creativity – whatever process you choose.