Getting AutoMayhem instead of Automation

Chris J Terrell
3 min readFeb 5, 2024

We don’t want chaos, so why do we end up with it so often. We want that streamlined communication channel or simplified quarterly review. We desperately wish for streamlined Automation but end up with “Automayhem.” The real questions are: how do we end up in AutoMayhem, why does it happen, and how do you prevent it from ruining your work.

How do we end up with AutoMayhem

There are four significant ways people end up getting AutoMayhem.

  1. System integrations that don’t consider the problem or the end user. Just because you can sync systems doesn’t mean you should. Integrations should simplify and scale, but a lot of the time, they only add unhelpful complexity.
  2. Someone expects a tool or system to do something it was never designed to do. Most commonly, this happens when a tool designed for workflow is expected to provide reporting.
  3. An executive or a business leader provides the vision and execution processes. For the most part, the executive needs help understanding the workflow and execution systems, which leads to AutoMayhem’s frustrations.
  4. A new process is presented to executives or leadership before it starts. I think of this like the people who go on Shark Tank, and when asked what their sales are, they helplessly say we don’t have any. Process Debt and AutoMayhem often travel together.

Why Automayhem.

In statistics, there is a standard phrase: correlation does not equal causation. In other words, just because you are wearing shorts doesn’t mean it is hot outside. Humans think in opposite ways. If you don’t believe me, think of the persistence of fake news and astrologers. I hear you saying that is great, but what does that have to do with Automayhem? I am glad you asked. Humans are highly negatively biased, so we constantly look for ways to change anything and everything. These changes are more and more inconsistencies and spin-off AutoMayhem. The other main reason people end up with AutoMayhem is humans are terrible at measuring impact and time. Because of this, we add bureaucracy to simple processes and have no guardrails when we need them.

How do you prevent AutoMayhem?

First, thinking about Automation and its evil cousin, Automayhem, will already put you ahead of the curve. The steps below will help guide you to elegant processes and simplified work.

  1. How long will the expected task be expected? If it won’t be consistent over the next 3 years, don’t automate.
  2. Ask, “Does this need to be Automated?”
  3. Use Logarithms to determine repetitions. Over a year, this happened 10, 100, 1,000, 100,000, or 1 Million Times. If it happens one hundred times or less a year, it should have an owner and not have a dedicated process. A spreadsheet will do. I am not a spreadsheet fan for processes, but keep it simple.
  4. Identify what process already exists. If you are creating a process from scratch, start small and iterate.
  5. Only build a process for what you can hold people accountable for. It would be best to have a dashboard, scoreboard, or some way to measure the process.
  6. A follow-up ritual must be created and then enforced.
  7. Someone must own the process.

Automation requires consistency, but business processes and human behavior can be unpredictable. It’s essential to assess the need for Automation based on the practicality and volume of the process. Creating clarity in automation goals and ensuring simplicity will help avoid auto mayhem scenarios.

Friends don’t let friends fall into AutoMayhem.

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