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Signs You Have Too Much Process

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I'm a simple man. I used to program a lot (and still do), but then I got into project management, program management, and finally, teaching process to large organizations and inventing. Along the way, I've been beaten up many, many times about one word -- process.

Why? Because it's always either too little, or it's too much, and it's the most poorly understood thing that software developers do. The amount of process you need in your project is directly related to risk -- if you're worried about something, put in some steps and decisions so you won't be so worried about it. That's it. Some things, like "what are we doing" and "how do we know when we are done?" you worry about for every project, so it makes sense that you have some small amount of process you do each time.

The problem is that people don't understand that this is the reason for adding process. They view it as paperwork. To make matters worse, large organizations are worried about EVERYTHING, so they try to put in as many steps and decisions as possible, which means a lot more paperwork, proving people's suspicions correct. This makes process an even dirtier word than it was before when people simply didn't understand it. Now when they think of process they actually think of the wrong thing -- and this is true for a lot of folks out there who are making processes for other people to do! What a world! So many problems, so few billable consulting hours.

So in an effort to help you developer schmucks out there like me, I've put together a checklist of indications that you may actually be doing too much process. You might want to print this out and hang it up around the cube or the war-room.

Signs you have too much process

  • Nobody comes to your meetings anymore
  • Your project documentation contains footnotes
  • The original requirements are written in sanskrit
  • Your design team is busy trying to figure out a solution to the Heisenburg Uncertainty Principle
  • Your project risk list includes the Book of Revelation
  • Mr. Spock is in charge of code reviews
  • The project WBS is big enough to appear on Google Earth
  • Had to hire Mr. Universe to carry around the project book to meetings
  • The sign-off sheet is also the company phone directory
  • Your bug reporting tool has a required 14-tab section for pet history
  • Your change control board includes the UN Security Council
  • One of your project metrics is pounds of ink used per month
  • A violent argument erupts each morning over whether Hungarian notation was actually a plot by the communists
  • You suddenly have a lot of new friends who are CPAs
  • You have meetings to determine what the process is for having meetings to plan meetings
  • The original project manager was named Noah and left to go into some kind of ship-building gig
  • You send users to secret CIA prisions to determine what they really want
  • Your standard CM check-in process includes a stool sample
  • Each team has a required Philosopher
  • Your project is praised by the Internal Revenue Service as a model of efficiency
  • Your office laser printers are attacked by angry Treeants
  • The initial use case diagram is listed as historical cave art in France
  • You've reached CMMI level 7, in which you document reasons for the project failing before the kickoff

Use Cases as Cave Art
Initial Requirements

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Certainly, I bet everyone in the outsourced Indian IT industry feels the same way. Processes dont but ‘too much process’ ceratinly get in the way of some hardcore development work! When you need a checklist to determine if you have complete... Read More


Whoooo-we this list is a hoot! had me in stitches. One nitpick: where you say "treeants" I think you might mean "Ents" if you're talking about LOTR tree-herders. Also, the illustration looks less like an Ent and more like the Pagan "Green Man". Still, a great read!

Treeants is an Old D&D Monster Manual Term.

Same thing


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This page contains a single entry by Daniel published on October 18, 2006 3:51 PM.

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Daniel Markham