Progress Over Process Wins Every Time

This scene from Captain America: First Avenger is a good example of how being too enamored with a production and/or development process can often keep the goal out of reach, or prevent you from discovering an easier way to achieve the goal.

Here we have our faithful Scrum master Sergeant, informing the Privates that whomever brings him the flag from atop the pole gets to skip the next fifteen miles of running and ride back to base in the jeep.

Notice the pile-up of soldiers all group-thinking the only means to get the flag is to climb that pole. This is very much like development that believes so unwaveringly in their process (Waterfall, Agile, Lean, etc) that they feel the methodology can be applied to any problem and be used to solve it.

At one point, the Scrum master even brags(?!) that no one has reached the flag in 17 years. If that’s the case, the process doesn’t fit the problem. He’s a crap leader; if this goal hasn’t been achieved in 17 years – it’s the methodology not the soldiers. Fire the Sergeant.

Perhaps if the Scrum master had allowed the soldiers to keep trying, one may have eventually reached the top. We’ll never know, as after several failed attempts, the process clearly wasn’t working and this goal was moved back to the Backlog and the soldiers are ordered to move on. Well that was an expensive waste of time, no matter what business you’re in.

Enter little Private Steve Rogers, who was pushed back by the louder, stronger members of the squad. In doing so, he was able to look beyond the process and come up with a novel new approach that was simple, quick and most important – WORKED. See, Steve employed another process that requires a bit more creativity and willingness to break from the dogma of more established methodologies. He’s employing the GSD methodology. “Get Stuff Done” or as I prefer, the more colorful alternate colloquialism.

Not to diss these other well-established processes, but this is why I prefer to let the desired end result inform and choose the BEST methodology used to achieve it, not the other way around, forcing a single methodology at the problem.

Arguably one of the most perfect films in history is The Godfather. The acting, cinematography, music and writing were phenomenal. Yet, Francis Ford Coppola was rewriting the script almost daily. The classic scene at the toll booth when Sonny was murdered was rewritten on the hood of the car just before they shot it. Had Coppola gone through the “traditional process”, he’d have to send the script into the studio executives for review and notes, while shutting down production awaiting their reply. You tell me; did GSD make The Godfather a better movie?

Later in his career, Coppola did indeed have less autonomy and had to play more by the studio’s stricter rules. This contributed significantly to Godfather 3 being the most reviled in the series. The process of collecting studio consensus on every creative decision killed the progress of making a great film.

Bottom line: Don’t let Process get in the way of Progress. Focus on the BEST way to achieve the goal. Your Customers will love the result.