Observations and arguments.

Giving up consistency as an organizational objective

Marketing ethnographer and anthropologist Grant McCracken let fly a question this week that’s been gnawing at me for a while now:

What if we gave up consistency as an organizational objective? What if we stopped trying to integrate ventures and strategies? What if we just let the corporation rip as something essentially inconsistent and unintegrated?

I wonder this because as my organization has begun its latest initiative to improve our internal workflows (seriously enough to add headcount to help do it), there has been a directive from our management team to make workflows consistent across teams.

Which: from a management perspective is a perfectly reasonable request.
But which: from a workflow perspective can make little sense.

As a workflow or systems analyst, of course you are invested in satisfying the desires of management–the people you’re working for. But is your goal consistency? Or is it to improve the methodologies and ultimately the outcomes of the system/workflow?

Consistency should be a tactic, not an objective. Sometimes it helps the work itself improve, especially when there is a great deal of interaction between teams. In other cases it helps management track progress or profitability. Consistency in UI design can help the end user learn to make good guesses about where to look for a button or command. There is often a measurable value one can attach to the application of consistency.

But when consistency is itself the goal, you can wind up placing obstacles in the road to quality outcomes, by limiting the abilities of teams to make good (or great) decisions. All simply to help management not have to think quite so hard about the business.

The wrong question: How can we make things more consistent?
The right question: Where (and how) can consistency help us?

What if by giving up consistency we could create better products?



  Michael Johnson wrote @

I thought a lot about this when I was strapped to the mill wheel, Chris. I don’t think (in this case) that management’s goal is consistency for its own sake; I think it’s (once again) about somehow forcing would-be captains of design to meet deadlines in a culture that prides itself on all-nighters. And again I think it won’t work.

The right question, no. 1: Have we finished the product and planned the marketing campaign carefully before starting the design and production clock?

The right question, no. 2: Do we have enough people on staff to carry the workload and absorb the inevitable delays?

PS — Your blogs are sucking up my entire morning. Good luck out there. — MJ

  black celebs wrote @

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