Anyone who has worked at a big company knows the danger of too much process. You have to get consensus from 7 different people before taking a step; if a feature isn’t on the 6 month roadmap, you can’t do it, even if 90% of your customers are desperate for it; you lose a great hire because the person who needed to sign your paperwork was on vacation. Process can definitely slow things down, and one of the beauties of a startup environment is the absence of process, and being able to pop over to your colleagues desk, propose an idea, write some code, call a customer, and get things done.
But process isn’t all bad. When you’re 2, 3, or 5 people, you don’t need much process—any bigger than that, and the lack of proces becomes dangerous.
Some benefits of having process:
- Everyone is on the same page about company objectives, and can work towards a similar goal and feel like part of a competent team
- Customers know (generally) what will come out when, and can plan accordingly and feel like you know what you are doing
- You don’t duplicate work
- There are clear swim lanes for employees, which reduces land grabbing and frustration
- When you collect information in one place, you can see patterns and reduce time waste of searching or recollecting info
Process is like a stake for your tomato plant or agar for your bacterial culture. It’s something that helps you grow. The real trick is getting the right amount of process in place. If you’re at a startup, remember that the right amount of process will constantly be changing, and it may feel uncomfortable, but it’s totally OK.
How you know you have too much process:
- You’re not releasing features
- You spend more than 50% of your day in meetings (and you’re not in sales)
- More than one person has to sign off on things that don’t matter very much
Embrace process. Just keep an eye on it, and be willing to alter it (up or down) when you’re feeling uncomfortable.