The Elephant Series: Process - Is It Better To Get It Right Or Do It Right?

The Elephant Series Brainstorming over beer - we came up with a new blog concept and we're calling it The Elephant. The concept is tackling a topic from multiple points of view. On the first pass, these POVs will come from our stable of bloggers. But then the real fun will come engaging others POVs for the dialogue. Too often in our industry these dialogues appear in separate venues and never cross paths. We want to force that path crossing in a grand way. We are calling it The Elephant for two reason:
  1. The Elephant in the Room
  2. The Story of the Blind Men and the Elephant

Which means we'll get to hear from each blind man and/or woman and hopefully end up with the complete picture. And we hope to pull the covers off of many elephants in the room that have been standing there far too long - un-noticed. Participation is key to this dialogue, so please provide your POV on the topic. You can do so via the comments section. Let the games begin!

First Elephant Question: Is It Better To Get It Right Or Do It Right? This question is really founded in the value of process. Should we follow a process to insure the right or best result, or is the right result good enough on its own?

The Alternative Fee Arrangement (AFA) Perspective Pricing as an Art and Science - Where's the Line? Toby Brown From my perspective running alternative fee deals - 'getting it right' weighs in at 90% in this debate. But right now I appear to be living in the wild wild west. Too much order in terms of process would leave me behind. In my role, I need to deliver answers now, not after driving requests through a drawn-out formal process. I do need access to the right information at the right time. But following a rigid schema right now would lead to getting it wrong. Not something I have time or the patience for. However ... the writing on the wall has "Process" in bold letters. My biggest challenge is finding any tools or system around to handle any process. Normally I'm the guy who chafes at random spreadsheets, used to avoid a database. But in this world I am forced to use them. My bottom-line: Getting it Right is all that counts right now. But vendors .... please, please, please - I am begging you to get some reasonable AFA and LPM process tools on the market soon.

The Information Technology Perspective Process with Schmucks Scott Preston Measure twice and cut once – is this process or knowledge? It takes longer, but the results are consistently better and consistently better results is what process is all about, but caution is based on knowledge and experience. The typical IT person is process oriented, this is very important when you are maintaining complex systems, especially as IT is being asked to do more with less. But doing more with less often calls for creative thinking, and focus on process can fly in the face of creative thinking. When looking for a new solution, ask this question. Is this a one off solution or one that will happen again? The more the solution needs to be repeated the more time needs to be spent on automation (repeatable process). When working on new solutions you will frequently hear me talk about “turning the problem on its side” – meaning, let’s look at this from another angle or approach the problem in a new way. This concept is part of my nature. I’m a jazz musician by training and jazz musicians are all about learning the rules and then breaking them. So, don’t let process stunt your creative thinking, break a few rules and learn from your mistakes.

The Library & Information Services Perspective Process, Schmocess!! Question Asked... Question Answered is the new process! Greg Lambert In these times of running a research shop with bare-bones operations, researchers don't have time to "teach a man to fish" anymore. These days it is a process of question-in... answer-out rather than going through the process and explaining to the person where the resources are located, how to navigate or search that resource, and what alternatives are out there that may also hold the answer to the question being asked. It makes for job security for librarians and researchers, but it also creates a terrible process and is counter to what librarians and researchers are really good at... and that's teaching others how to find answers, while at the same time providing them the answers they need. The process definitely isn't where it needs to be, but bare-bones operations call for bare-bones processes.

The Competitive Intelligence (CI) Perspective Dealing with Cloudy Crystal Balls and Out of Date Tarot Cards Zena Applebaum Good competitive intelligence (CI) is in itself a process that is constantly evolving in an effort to get it right while doing it right. Taking the time to do it right only works in cases of extreme clairvoyance, where you know what the answer to the business problem is going to be so you can design a process around finding that answer. Unfortunately, CI doesn't really work that way and most of CI practitioners' crystal balls are cloudy and our tarot cards are out of date. So we have no choice but to dive in and try to get it right first; allowing the process to form in the background. As each new question or assignment is taken on, the process gets refined to become more "right" often resulting in greater efficiently and a better understanding of the scope of the problem/solution. Interestingly, the process that will be used to answer the question can often inform the intelligence that will come out. For example, using an environmental scan (the process) to identify a key competitor (the answer) in a market place may actually create several more questions requiring a different set of processes and still not lead to a "right" answer. But you wouldn't have known to ask those new questions if you had not first jumped right in. So for CI people, the answer is first attempt to get it right, and then attempt to nail down a process. Which works until a new question comes along and the now refined process doesn't work….

The Internet Marketing (IM) Perspective

It's Big Picture, Baby

Lisa Salazar

IM is all about process. We design, post, link, count, analyze, go back to the design, refine, post, ...

You see where I am going. IM is all about metrics. Lots of folks get stuck at the design phase and get hung up on the little picture (pun intended). What many folks fail to see is that IM should be a process if it is done well and it is done right.

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John said...

Great concept. I'm going to enjoy the Elephant.

From my perspective (a Business IT guy who is a qualified lawyer and also responsible for our library/research function), the answer is 'it depends'.

For the longest time many lawyers thought of 'process' as a dirty word, but whilst that attitude has faded, the risk is that we over process some stuff and lose the creativity.

So - it depends (and this isn't rocket science):

* If what you are doing happens frequently and you need consistent, m,easurable or auditable results then a process is the way to go.

* If what you are doing is ad hoc then you need to reply on people to get the right result or do the right thing and so need mechanisms to support them and a way to catch things when they don't go according to plan.

The problems I see are those things in between, where the effort of defining and agreeing a strict process is not justified by the frequency of using it, but it happens more than just irregularly and each time it feels like stumbling through and just about getting there.

I think there is a tremendous opportunity here to use technology (and specifically networking and knowledge tools) to help provide the signposts and resources (including information on who has done stuff like this before) for these barely repeatable processes.

Tracy Thompson-Przylucki said...

Good topic for the first pass at the elephant. From my perspective (director of a collaborative organization) doing it right is the meat of the matter, whether you get it right or not, and maybe especially if you get it wrong (IMO: we should value failure more than we do but that's another subject). The process is where you learn so much, and so often that knowledge is transferrable. That's not to say that the process has to be elaborate or complex, or even clearly defined and structured. The nature of the process will depend on the project itself. But at the very least the process (means) should be distinguished from the goal (ends) in the minds of the participants. There are two pitfalls to avoid. 1) Don't let the tail wag the dog! Keep the end clearly in mind so the process doesn't inadvertently drive the goal. And 2) don't let the perfect become the enemy of the good! If you or your team are overly focused on 'getting it right' you may never 'get it' at all! Thanks for the forum.

Greg Lambert said...

I like Tracy's comment... don't let process mean perfect. If we wait until the process is perfect, then we'll be waiting for a long, long time.

Scott Preston said...

Agreed. Process is about repeatability and perfection is about a dream.

Lisa Salazar said...

But process can help you strive for perfection--as I mentioned in my IM posting.

Scott Preston said...

Lisa, I totally agree. Process is about refinement.

NormanMailer said...

Not only is IM about process. It's also about creativity. For instance, those in the legal industry are starting to branch out from their old marketing methods and starting to use the internet to attract new clients: http://lawblog.legalmatch.com/2010/06/09/lawyers-on-twitter-twitteriffic-or-just-twitterpated/

I thinking branching into social media networks is a huge part of it.

Richard Leiter said...

The Legal Research Perspective

IMHO, everyone in this discussion is right. But taken as a whole they are failing to see the elephant! Here's the deal: Knowledge of process is critical, even necessary. But process doesn't ever need to be followed in achieving useful results. Serendipity, or "tacit knowledge," is the most useful tool in a researchers arsenal. In this context serendipity is an elegant combination of head/hard knowledge of process and creativity/intuition.

Micahael Polanyi's excellent book, Personal Knowledge, illustrates how, for example, pianists must know how pianos work, and know how to move their fingers across a keyboard to produce music, but they don't need to be conscious of every movement while they are playing in order to make beautiful music. I think that it's the same with research. It may be important to know every step that an idea takes on the way to becoming a bill, and, ultimately, a statute. But that does not mean that every time you need to do a legislative history, you need to revisit every step along the way. Experience and knowledge give us insights into shortcuts and efficiencies.

But, in the end, the only way you can evaluate whether you "got it right," is to evaluate your answer in the context of what you know about the process....

Good discussion.


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