Building culture in creative, product, and development teams, part 2: the role of process

Since my last post on this topic, which covered team building fundamentals, a few people have asked me about the role of process in building creative culture. I certainly wouldn’t minimize the importance of setting up a clear, coherent process, I have a few simple rules about what kind of process you should implement with your creative and development teams.

It is never dogma.

The process itself should never rule the organizational flow. When teams fall into routines that are overly driven by process, it can easily stifle both innovation and creation. We can quickly succumb to a mechanical approach to our product design and development, which will often yield substantial amounts of frustration.

This isn’t to say that process isn’t important. It is. In fact, it’s critical. Having no process is arguably worse than having an overly rigid process. This doesn’t mean you should adopt scrum to the letter – different approaches will be required depending on whether your team is distributed or not and the nature of the products you are creating, so don’t feel the need to blindly adhere to anyone else’s dogma either. It’s okay to make your own process that’s right for your organization, just try to learn from the smart systems that people have created over the years.

Therefore, we should always assume that:

It is living.

Just as you want to iterate your products quickly to learn from how they act in the marketplace, you should equally assume that your processes will be iterative and develop over time. Especially as your company grows, and your dev and product teams expand, your processes will need to adjust themselves over time.

This also applies to the lifecycle of the product you’re working on. A pre-launch product will necessarily have different processes than a post-launch product. And it’s important that this ability to modify your process as you go is engendered into the culture of your product and tech teams. Everyone needs to not only be comfortable with change, but each member of the team should be active agents of change, looking for opportunities to improve the process and make everyone smarter and more efficient.

Which also means that:

It puts people first.

In the same way that culture starts with people, so does process. We create processes to make sure that the people involved all understand their roles, and can work together in the most efficient and effective way. But it’s still about the people. They are the ones who not only have to live _in_ the process, but work together in the first place, all under the stress of launching and iterating products.

Any process or organization that doesn’t follow those three tenets is, in my opinion, doomed.

And if you missed it, don’t forget to read the first post in this series: my thoughts about building a strong culture in your product and dev teams.