Bad Process Kills

To do good work consistently, you have to have process – a way that you approach The Work that allows you to create a feedback loop, allows for continual improvement, and ideally helps you to identify the important things that are sometimes buried in the day-to-day. Process helps you to be satisfied with The Work – good process helps you to be happy, and great process is rare and fleeting but worth the chase. Bad process fails in one of these ways: perhaps you don’t get the information that you need. Perhaps you don’t know who to ask for help. Maybe it’s as simple as not knowing the best way to organize your day.

Have you heard of Jack Phillips?

On the evening of 14 April, in the wireless room on the boat deck, Phillips was sending messages to Cape RaceNewfoundland, working to clear a backlog of passengers’ personal messages that had accumulated when the wireless had broken down the day before. Bride was asleep in the adjoining cabin, intending to relieve Phillips at midnight, two hours early. Shortly after 9:30 pm, Phillips received an ice warning from the steamship Mesaba reporting a large number of icebergs and an ice field directly in the path of Titanic. Phillips acknowledged the Mesabas warning and continued to transmit messages to Cape Race. The Mesabas wireless operator waited for Phillips to report that he had given the report to the bridge, but Phillips continued working Cape Race. The message was one of the most important warnings Titanic received, but it was never delivered to the bridge.

The Titanic’s epic capsizing can be attributed at least in part to bad process: Phillips had the information that he needed, and he knew what he needed to do – transmit that information to the bridge. What his process lacked was a mechanism that helped the important stuff float to the top. Instead, this urgent message that would have changed history sat beneath a stack of messages from the passengers to their friends back home.

Bad process kills. Get rid of it before it gets rid of you!

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