When Do You Know Processes Have Taken Over People

Gloriaqiao, JD, MBA
2 min readOct 29, 2020

https://www.reddit.com/r/ProgrammerHumor/comments/gi0xz4/were_agile_now_because_jira/

Let’s face it, we all need processes. As a company grows bigger, geographically dispersed and even has employees in different time zones across continents, without processes and procedures, the operation is guaranteed to be a mess.

Some, a healthy amount of processes are good, but not too much. If so, then the processes will take on a life of its own, and swallow the productivity and efficiency. It’s like saying wearing shoes is good, but we should wear iron boots.

When do you know the processes have taken over people? Here are some symptoms I observed.

  1. Things become very slow, if not stale at all. I have seen jira tickets being parked in queues for months, if not years. If so, why have the jira tickets at all? If you can’t figure out a way to get things moving, and moving at a reasonable, healthy pace, that’s a red flag.
  2. Too many steps to get one thing done. To request a NDA, open a ticket. To engage with IT, open another ticket. To get security review, ping some else on the approval flow. Oh and you want legal review, get in queue with 500 other tickets. This is a recipe for disaster. A sensible company should not let the operations get to that.
  3. Broken, siloed processes. It’s sound and healthy to track things, and it’s also reasonable that each department has their own care-abouts and want to track their own things. However, if this translate into five separate jira boards, it’s guaranteed to be a bad user experience. Always put the user first, and think about what the users have to go through to get something done. If you can’t provide them with an integrated, streamlined processes where they can track each step of the way, it’s a bad process design.
  4. Tracking things but not knowing why we are tracking things. I used to have departments tell me, for this, you have to open a jira ticket, because we want to track it. But when I asked them for reporting on their metrics, they don’t even have them. So if you can’t even report on the metrics, what exactly you are tracking and why? If people stop asking why and start tracking things just for the heck of it, there is no point.
  5. Overly cautious, conservative, risk averse. Granted, we all need to be fully aware and hedge against risk. But if risk becomes fear, then we are overly exaggerating the risk and we are slowing down the operation. A reasonable, calculated amount of risk is good, if that’s in exchange of speed of execution. When you become too risk averse, then we might as well all go home and stop playing this game called Startup.

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Gloriaqiao, JD, MBA

Silicon valley technologist. Writer. Amateur artist. Yogi. World traveller. Mother of two but still a child at heart.