When Should a Process Be Art, Not Science – Review

“The movement to standardize processes has gone overboard. Some require an artist´s judgment — and should be managed accordingly.” Joseph M. Hall and M. Eric Johnson.

Two well known teachers wrote an article in the Harvard Business Review that I want to bring to your attention: When Should a Process Be Art, Not Science by Hall and Johnson.

There are some processes that naturally resist definition and standardization—that are more art than science. Helping executives understand which should not be standardized and how to manage artistic and scientific processes in tandem is the purpose of this article.

Scrum was designed to “control chaos” and to establish a way of working in a high demanding, chaotic environment: Software Development.

As I always try to explain: Scrum can be used in any environment that needs a huge amount of judgment in which you need to adapt to new aspects with very high frequency: Software Development, Marketing management, Campaign Management, Business Development, Sales, Customer Service, System Administration and and and …(Side note: That is the reason why Kanban is not the right tool for this – Lean management needs stable environments.)

The two professors see a need for an empirical control processes in most business environments, too.

They call these processes artistic processes. A different name, but the same idea.

What they also say, and this is one of my claims since years.

“Not only does standardization reduce accountability, but it causes workers to switch to autopilot.”

When you have a work standardized and two high skilled worker on this process.Then it will happen that you bore your people to death. They will go on autopilot, they do not think anymore. They only do their work.

“An artistic process has to rely on external measures of success, like customer feedback.”

“Many Processes Are an Art:

  • Leadership Training
  • Auditing
  • Customer Service
  • Software Development”

The two profs give us an advice how to bring people to the level that they can live with artistic processes:

„If a process is artistic, invest in giving employees the skills, judgment, and cultural appreciation to excel in variable conditions.“

So basically what they say is, that you need to train your people again and again, that you must enable them to improve themselves.

But how do I get the right process for my situation?

The three steps to run the right process in you company:

  1. Identify what should and shouldn`t be art.
  2. Develop and infrastructure to support art.
  3. Creating appropriate metrics: Feedback
  4. Periodically reevaluate the division between art and science.

Getting art and science work together

    F.e. Support process that can be standardized.

      Building an effective training program

        Artist must learn their skills of trade. They often have to undergo a formal apprenticeship of informal mentoring and probationary period during which their freedom is curtailed.

        • Tolerating failure: The variations that are the hallmark of artistic processes make it impossible to satisfy every customer on the first try.
        • Leave a Reply

          Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

          WordPress.com Logo

          You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

          Twitter picture

          You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

          Facebook photo

          You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

          Google+ photo

          You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

          Connecting to %s