Requirements Antipattern # 312: Never Always Follow All of Some Rules
Posted by kenhoward on September 4, 2008
(The title actually really does make sense if you study it a bit.) When it comes to prescribing process, the goal is supposed to be to repeat a positive experience. Pilots are required by the FAA to explicitly follow and check off items on a checklist every time they follow pre- and post-flight procedures. There is no latitude (no pun intended) given regarding this rule because there is sufficient evidence to demonstrate that positive results can be expected when procedures are followed.
On projects, prescriptive processes can be helpful to newbies. I’ve always felt that project participants ought to earn the right to change or bypass the process. That right is earned through experience and positive results. As a consultant I’ve worked with many large and small companies over the years. Larger companies have a tendency to over-prescribe process primarily because there is less confidence and knowledge about the wisdom and experience of project participants. Smart companies (large or small) tend to hire skillful facilitators/leaders to run projects. A skilled and wise leader can keep the project ahead of the many unpredictable things that occur on projects – things that a prescriptive process could never anticipate.
Undesirable things can happen when someone rotely follows the rules without question, as this true story from this months’ Readers Digest illustrates: Hospital regulations require a wheelchair for patients being discharged. However, while working as a student nurse, I found an elderly gentleman already dressed and sitting on the bed with a suitcase at his feet-who insisted he didn’t need my help to leave the hospital. After a chat about rules being rules, he reluctantly let me wheel him to the elevator. On the way down, I asked if his wife was meeting him. “I don’t know,” he said. “She’s still upstairs in the bathroom changing out of her hospital gown.