Too much Process Too little Thought
Our existence is substantially a round of processes. Each one has as its objective making life more predictable and less prone to error and mishap. The domestic rhythm of eating, sleeping, studying and being entertained seeks to maintain the even tenor of a harmonious life. The routine of work, with its systems, reports, meetings, deadlines and KPIs, is designed to ensure compliance with standards and cooperation with others who depend on us.
Advances in technology, with their ability to mechanise and automate our lives, have led to easier process building and faster operations execution. Often this is an advantage, smoothing the way to achievement, guaranteeing a level of quality and lightening the load of thinking we must do to complete our work satisfactorily. And this is where the trap known as “Unthinking” sits waiting to clamp us in its jaws, paralysing us like the bite of a Great White Shark.
Much as we need it, process is starting to destroy humankind. The critical element of process is thought, the very thing process is designed to alleviate. It would seem from public reports that the experience of the Boeing Company over its MAX aircraft is an excellent but tragic example of this. One process demands checking, double-checking, testing and authorisation at every stage of an aircraft’s construction. Another process demands description, instruction, examination at every point in the aircraft’s testing for airworthiness. Pressure demands shortcuts.
You may think that disastrous results from lack of thought of this kind are rare. They are not. Of course, few events result in such massive, immediate, identifiable loss of life but drug companies experience of fast-tracking remedies to the consumer tells us that such behaviour is lamentably frequent. And the waste of time caused by poorly thought through process is massive. As Fintech develops we live the banking chop and change of process and must respond to everything inventive technology unearths.
Humans have a tendency to rush each new opportunity as though it was going to last only fleetingly. And today that is quite likely the case. But that is different from it being about to disappear and leave us bereft of help. For sure, new developments will outpace the existing technologies but not necessarily so greatly that we need them immediately. The mobile phone is a perfect example. New kit may be quicker, smarter and more fashionable. As the manufacturers are finding out, we quite like simple versions – especially when we understand them.
As with much in life it is essentially about balance. Weighing up the safety of an aircraft versus the pace at which it can be airborne would seem to be relatively straightforward. Competitive pressure to beat the other team ought to be secondary to ensuring a safe vehicle. In the case of Boeing it seems not to have been. We may curse about that but before we do so we should consider how often we make demands on others that create shortcuts which cause inconvenience, distress and damage. Speed is not of the Essence. The Essence is of Success.
Here are eight considerations to examine before we leap into new products and processes:
Is it necessary? The answer will always be yes – but how necessary will remain a question.
Is it decent? Vulgarity sells but it also corrupts. A trail of corruption is not a desirable legacy.
Is it safe? Being harmless is a worthy objective.
Is it honest? Cheating may make a quick buck but what if it loses a standard?
Is it useful? Most things are. Producing the useless destroys the planet.
Is it good value? Price is irrelevant, value is the only criterion by which to judge.
Is it beautiful? Hideous is as soul destroying as plastic is planet destroying.
Is it lasting? Nothing lasts forever but, increasingly, good things last a long time.
The sum of these criteria, as you can see, is purpose. Do not be led astray by those who say humans should be purposeless. A leaf floating on a mill pond has purpose. We are living creatures with very specific, if not always clear, purposes. To find them and then achieve them we need to think. Process will help us at every stage along the way. Without thought process will fail.
When we combine process with thought we have the epitome of humanity.
Which is the ability to fashion who we are.
And when we are.