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Faith in the Process

Generally in software development, process has been described as the steps we take to get things done, and is often captured as a specified approach to building our products that involves some sort of lifecycle, a collection of roles and responsibilities, a series of artifacts we produce along the way, perhaps some milestones, and some checks and balances to keep the whole thing going smoothly. There is more than meets the eye if we want our approach to be successful.

It is one thing to have a process defined by a small group of people that are leading the parade, yet another thing to have it understood and followed effectively by the masses. This requires far more than capturing the intended steps, or identifying the book or website that describes the approach to take. It even goes beyond educating the group more closely to ensure they can recite the approach as it is defined. What is really needed to internalize and have an effective approach within the team is for everyone to have experienced that approach enough so that they can trust that it will work. They need to have built faith in the process.

Without faith in the approach, it becomes far too easy to fall back on an old, trusted approach at the first hint of trouble. not only do we need to understand the steps in the process, we need to know, to have internalized, that the process will work even in the face of adversity. This is not something that others can tell us, this is something we need to experience. For those that are driving process in their organizations, or are consulting into shops as a process champion, this is a critical stage in the change cycle that we need to manage carefully. It is not something that can be trained or passed along in a lunch and learn session, it takes time and personal experience through the lifecycle.

This is true of any process, not just for software development lifecycles. As we run diagnostics in more and more organizations, I am always faced with skepticism that such a light approach can yield the sort of results we often see. I can tell people about the experiences I have had with other groups, and that is often enough to convince people to give it a try, but there remain those that are not fully bought in.

From the thinking perspective, I know that the combination of involving everyone, promoting open honest discussion, and allowing the team to drive their own conclusions about what reasonable next steps should look like is a formula that has been successful and repeatable from place to place. It is only after having run the diagnostic dozens of times, though, that I am at a point where, from the sensing perspective, I know it will work, and have complete faith in the process. It would be naive to assume that others will have that same level of faith without the same degree of experience, no matter how many testimonials I throw at them.

This faith in the process can only be built over time. If you are part of an SEPG or PMO or a Certified Scrum Master, you need to appreciate this as you work with your teams. Assume that while rote learning of the steps can be relatively quick, deep faith in the approach to the point where it will be trusted in the face of adversity, is not something you can pass along through a manual or slide deck or discussion. It has to be experienced.

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