D J Shin [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (], from Wikimedia Commons

D J Shin [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (], from Wikimedia Commons

What springs to mind when I use the word ‘process’ in conversation with people is something boring and robotic - a highly detailed description of how to perform some low-level, small-grained task, devoid of context and utterly lacking in colour and humanity.

I think that’s because the most commonly used languages for describing processes comes from the automation space. These processes are instructing machines, not humans. Every alternative scenario has to be exhaustively described and programmed for, every detail has to be spelt out - because machines are literal, they do exactly what they are told, no more, no less.

Professionals aren’t machines. You can leave them to fill in gaps, interpret things in their own way, devise better ways of getting to the desired outcome. But they do appreciate some process - as a route map to follow, a checklist to ensure nothing important is forgotten, as a pattern that saves them from re-inventing the wheel every time.

That’s why we have musical scores; screenplays and storyboards; choreography and librettos; game plans and recipes. We’re quite happy to be told what to do, as long as it is at the right level with enough wiggle-room to make it our own.

I believe we need the equivalent for business - so that wherever professionals get together to make and deliver promises to clients they can easily master the core of the process, then clear their heads and hearts for the difficult, interesting, stretching work of interpretation and delivery.

Adopting the language of machines isn’t the answer.