Minimum Viable Process (!Product)
Vice President Technology at MiQ Digital
"Over the years, I have used the minimum viable product (MVP) concept to define and ship products. This concept has its successes because it acknowledges that we need to be iterative in building the product and get feedback early. It also acknowledges the principle of diminishing returns after a certain point in once axis of product. A product can have multiple axes. MVP suggests that rather than building all possible features along every axes, build an MVP instead. Similarly, you need to acknowledge that an iterative building of processes with early feedback will reap similar rewards and the concept of diminishing returns after a certain point in any axis of a process. Thus, to help get the maximum out of the right level of processes we need to discuss minimum viable process (not product)."
"There is an evolution of processes. In the beginning, typically everything starts with minimal process, whether it is life or an organization. When you are born there are no processes for anything. You can eat at any time, sleep at any time, have a bath once in a while etc., you get the idea. That is the way it should be at that stage. The next stage is the growing up phase. As you grow up, the amount that other put up with steadily reduces. Processes are introduced increasingly. You are expected to finish the food on your plate, not make a mess, study for exams, etc. Finally, the last stage recognizes that growing up is not easy at the time it happens. Of course, you probably don't remember exactly how you felt when each of the changes were introduced in life but it's fair to say that one probably did not feel thrilled about the change. However, if those changes were not introduced in time, behavior and experience would be different for you and those around you.
Sometimes there is a resistance towards process. To understand the concern effectively, we need to comprehend two psychological reasonings behind resistance."
"It is natural for any change to be viewed skeptically. We tend to question its necessity and need proof that it will work. This is especially true if we are tasting success currently with an existing set of processes or lack thereof."
"Rewards are not immediate but delayed. In any improvements of process the rewards are delayed. Everyone can appreciate the reward when they are instantaneous but delayed gratification is much harder for everyone."
"By adopting the concept of minimum viable process, both reasons for resistance to process can be effectively addressed. We can view 'process' also as a product being built and common questions that are typically asked in a product definition exercise."
What is the problem being solved?
- Every product has to address a need. In the case of "process" viewed as a product, the underlying value is time saved & quality improved. Time saved can be used in other areas such as innovation. Innovation can be viewed as being powered by time saved and hence by process. Quality improvement is directly desired and perceived by customers. Thus, it furthers the business objectives. Indirectly, quality saves time by eliminating rework.
Who are the stakeholders?
- Every team member is a stakeholder. In addition, the virtual entity of a "team" is also a stakeholder. In fact, the team is the primary stakeholder. An organization is a collection of teams and teams are a collection of people. If a process saves time for the overall organization, above and beyond the investments made in adhering to the process, then there is a positive ROI on the process. However, if additional time is spent by teams by a process and the overall team does not benefit, then that process should be eliminated.
- Similar to building products, you can follow the method of first producing a minimum viable process. Let the teams use it. Gather feedback and incorporate solutions into the next version of the process. This helps reduce the resistance to processes as the team understand that there is a feedback loop. This also addresses resistance due to delayed rewards. When a process roll-out is iterative, the teams can observe the rewards incrementally. The rewards are more evenly spaces out and it vastly improves the probability of success.
- Over time, just like product features, there can be a buildup of processes. Each process would have made sense to add individually. Subsequently, it could have lost its value for a variety of reasons. For example, the problem the process was introduced to solve no longer exists. The solution is to periodically take a critical look at all the processes and decide which ones to keep and which one to throw out. When this is done, the team stays healthy and the resistance to process also goes away.
- Iteratively introduce processes, gather feedback, and evolve. This will help you in building the right set of processes, will also reduce resistance by bringing in the rewards in increments for people to observe, and take out the fear of a big process change.
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Vice President Technology at MiQ Digital
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