Great Plan or Great Process

By | July 24, 2009

If you had to choose one, which would you prefer?  A Great Plan or a Great Process.

A Great Plan is the waterfall approach.  You plan out all the details in advance.  You design everything.  You have lots of meetings to gain consensus.  This is the way bridges and roads are built.  Once the blueprint says, “Put the sprinkler here”, the construction crew has no other options.  They blindly follow the plan no matter what.  Usually, you can keep track of a great plan and know progress.

A Great Process does not rely on the plan.  It has agreed to methods to resolve disputes and deal with change.  A Great Process assumes the world is chaotic and messy and that there needs to be ways to deal with the changes.  SaaS software is best built with a great process.  It’s harder to follow progress, which is why methodologies like Agile were invented.

The kind of project you are working on should detirmine which camp to be in.  However, I find that people inherently like plans or process inherently and will twist the facts to fit their world-view.  If someone is a planner, they inherently will sabotage process and go back to planning.  I know people who want to plan a trip to the beach. (First we will lay in the sun for 20 minutes, then we will wade in the water for 14 and a half minutes…etc)  Planners love to plan.  Process people love to deal with change dynamically.

I am a process guy, not a planner.  I think the world is too dynamic to plan things out.  We have opportunities and challenges that are impossible to predict, let alone plan.  A great process is clearly my choice.

2 thoughts on “Great Plan or Great Process

  1. Ben Nadel

    At work, we are definitely “process” people, but that is our plan. We design heavy up front, and then code. However, I don’t think we do it in the waterfall sense; we bring in the client really early to get continuous feedback on design. Our designs are high-fidelity, working prototypes that the client basically signs off on before we start the “fabrication” of the product. So, our plan is that we have distinct phases; but, within the phases, it’s all about the process.

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  2. Glen Lipka Post author

    In the real world, there isn’t one or the other. However, there are definitely tendencies. Process people like to have a toolkit of smaller “plans” that they use judgement and whip out when the time is right. Planners like to have a more strict script to follow that uses less judgement.

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