Lock-in and processes

The best processes should be adaptive to changing requirements and encourage the learn and improve cycle.

For that reason, implementing a process documentation system that requires a time or financial cost to update encourages lock-in and ultimately makes the process less able to change.

Lock-in is something that becomes common amongst medium to large businesses.

Perhaps the most common form of lock-in I come across is to do with the web browsers that my clients use.

If my client works for a large company, chances are that they have an IT department.

IT departments who have a remit to maintain hundreds / thousands of machines can become prone to lock-in.

This is the reason why IE6 has survived for so long. Not because people like using it but because the admin nightmare it would cause an IT team to update outweighs the perceived value of doing so: lock-in.

Of course lock-in is a negative thing. It is restrictive and forces decisions to go the way of the lock-in.

This is why processes must exist outside of the realms of lock-in.

If a process becomes locked-in then it cannot be improved and the process will begin to exist for existence’s sake.

This is why, in a recent conversation I had with someone who is implementing a quality management system I was shocked when they explained their plan to have their entire company process produced on a wall chart.

The wall chart would require a level of pre-planning, design and a relationship with a company to produce it.

The idea of the wall chart was great.

It would allow the company to monitor clients as they move through the company process.

The actual chart however would be the opposite of agile.

Imagine this scenario;

You review your process and find a small area that needs a minor change to improve things.

You remember that although you can change the process, it won’t be reflected on the wall chart.

The wall chart is too expensive to bother with changing for such a small tweak.

With the wall-chart as the go-to for members of the team there is a risk that they may continue working from the existing process and not the new and improved process.

You decide that it is safer to keep the process as it is so that everyone is working from the same plan.


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