A simple process test: repeatability

Here’s a benchmark for your process maturity. Take a process, and trigger it (i.e. start the process) two different times. Are the outcomes the same? If they are, and they continue to be each time, you have a repeatable process.

As examples:

  • If I go two different times to a restaurant and order a certain meal, do I receive the same thing both times?
  • If I submit two project requests at different times are they recorded in the same place in the same way?
  • If I install two servers at two different times, are they configured identically?

Repeatability is a big deal. The capability maturity model (CMM)┬ámade repeatability the first real hurdle: processes reach “level 2” when they are repeatable.

Creating a repeatable process does not require extensive process documentation or controls. Repeatability could even be ensuring the same person always performs the work. Some processes are very easy to make repeatable: buying food from the grocery is repeatable as long as you remember to make a list, your wallet, and check that the grocery’s open first.

Other processes, especially technical processes like server installation, are much harder to make repeatable. Server installations that use a “golden image” are repeatable, but more brittle; server installations that use a “rebuild” process with a series of scripts to configure are repeatable and also more resilient.

When I talk with people about processes, I find myself regularly talking about repeatability: would two different people read the vision statement and come away with a similar understanding? Can a new employee get up to speed on the process so they can perform it in the same way others do?

Repeatability is also easy to test. Just observe the inputs and outcomes and see whether they match over time.