Don’t Mash the Method

Is ‘process’ the same as ‘method’? Many people seem confused.

When you try and mess with the method it gets messy.Photo by H is for Home

Does it matter? Sort of.

It matters when your job is to take a look at how a company runs its design and production line.

Over the years I’ve re-engineered the in-house processes for a handful of IT and New Media companies. I’ve learnt that, while you can redesign the process, when you try and mess with the method it gets messy.

So what do I mean when I say ‘process’ and ‘method’? To me there’s a clear distinction between the two.

I wanted to see if some of my industry colleagues thought the same. I asked “What do you think is the difference (or not) between ‘process’ and ‘method’?

  • Colleague #1: “For me, method is the philosophical framework; process is the way your (client, employer) systems requires you to execute it.”
  • Colleague #2: “Process is the street. Method is the car you drive. Or in your case, a bicycle.”
  • Colleague #3: “On one level they can be used interchangeably but on another, ‘method’ is closer to ‘tool’ or ‘technique’ . . and process is the structured application of a combo of tools.”

To keep life simple this is how I deal with it:

Process = a systematic framework containing a series of milestone deliverables. It is a structure which holds everything together and gives the team focus.

Method = the techniques used to create each deliverable. The method can vary depending on a number of factors:

  • The type of project.
  • The project constraints (time/budget).
  • The client.
  • The practioner.
  • The team dynamic.

An example – within the Click Suite process we have a phase of work called ‘user research’. The milestone for the user research is a report including a set of persona (user) profiles.

The method we choose depends on the factors listed above, but this doesn’t affect the process. There are many different ways to approach user research – we could do online quantitative research to gather user data, interview people or create video dairies. On top of this the practioner assigned to deliver the milestone will also have their own unique experience, ideas and methods.

So while I’ve found that people are keen to work with a new process they will resistant change if you mess with their methods.

Any process that is too detailed or rigid is also setting itself up for failure. That’s why I design the process around milestones – this creates a common goal and short hops to the utlimate end goal (in our case this is usually a website or interactive).

So my magic formula for success is to keep it simple and to recognise the difference between process and method. You can tinker with the process, but unless you’ve got a good reason, don’t mash the method!

One response to “Don’t Mash the Method”

  1. Maggie Avatar

    Great thoughts on the difference between method and process. Thanks for sharing this.