Why do teams not adhere to processes?

February 3, 2018
Saket Bansal
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  • Scrum
  • Scrum Alliance
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Have you ever contemplated on this question? This probably is one of the most common challenge that all of us would have likely faced. Complying with a set of rules is one of the greatest challenges that most companies both large and small continue to face. Despite this being a prominent challenge that glares at faces on a day to day basis, why have we not managed to fix it?

Here’s an attempt to understand the reasons for such non-compliance and possible mitigation strategies.

While most project managers focus on defining the process and developing required templates, most struggle in getting the teams to adopt the processes.  So, why don’t teams adhere to processes?

One of the main reasons that I have noticed is that many do not understand the significance of the rules or the reason for the existence of such rules. Compliance to process rules will increase when the team members recognize that following such rules will not only help them but also others in the team. It is similar to kitchen or regular home rules. When one uses a lighter, it needs to be put back in its original place. This simple rule ensures that others in the house are not inconvenienced. In case, you place the lighter in a different place, others may waste hours searching for it. A carpenter’s office is another classic example, where the tools have designated places where they need to be placed after completion of work. A hammer, for example, has a designated place where it needs to go. If it is not put back in its place, others struggle to look for it.

If the project manager explains this consequence clearly to the team, that the rules are meant for everyone’s benefit, one may be able to gain greater compliance to process rules.

Also, probably many misconceive process rules to be a bottleneck. This is also stemming from the fact that not all process rules produce useful results. While some are critical and ‘must have’, others may be just add on with no real benefits. This is perhaps why many look for avenues or instances where they can deviate from the process.

In many organizations, processes are passed on to employees informally. This makes in even more difficult to drive compliance. Processes also fail because most people are not motivated to follow them. It is important that the need or usefulness of the process must be communicated in an impactful way. Why do we follow rules put forth in an aircraft? It is because, every time they mention a rule, they link it to the fact that “it is for your own safety”. This ensures greater compliance. Hence, it is critical for the project manager to convey the significance of process rules and how it benefits the follower itself.

What can you do?

In order to be able to drive change and create a culture of adherence to processes, Scrum maters will have to work towards bringing a change in the attitude of teams towards processes. In addition, they must focus on:

  1. Clearly articulating the benefits of complying with processes to themselves and for the team
  2. Similarly, proving a lucid picture of the repercussions of non-compliance is equally important
  3. Make process documents simple, clear and easy to comprehend
  4. Accessibility is key – ensure they are easy to access
  5. Ensure to explain the significance of the process and the benefits of complying to it
  6. Make adherence a part of the organization culture

Some of these simple steps may increase buy-in from teams and drive compliance to processes. For Scrum masters this is certainly one of the most challenging tasks at hand.