Are processes and procedures only for enterprises?


I've had the opportunity to work at quite a few startups. One thing I've to be common in them is adhoc way of doing things and ignorance towards processes, best practices and known project management techniques. When I suggest changes to the employers they come up with the answer that all these processes look good in books and reality is different OR they are only relevant in Google, Microsoft and Yahoo like companys.

It seems startups are exempted from following the standards and best way for them is to just go with the flow and make decisions based on gut feelings. Is that true? What is the justification?

Project Management Business Process

asked May 18 '11 at 14:57
Hasan Khan
118 points

1 Answer


Well it is and it isn't.

People who work for startups like making up the rules. This is one of the "hidden benefits" of working at a startup. If your startup requires creative solutions, you want to attract creative people. When you ask that question they here "why don't you fit back into this box" ... its an ego/point of difference thing ...

In the beginning this is fine. With groups under about 5 people the level of communication is very high betweeen all parties, thus the need to write things down and formilise them is low ... everyone knows what the other person did last time ... and often improves on it the next time. The processes are actually there but they aren't formilised or written down.

As a company grows beyond this point and gets in non-startup blood, there is a significant change that the startup people don't usually want to acknoledge ... these new people haven't been there and don't know ... some swim the rest sink, sometimes taking the company with it.

Its about this point that more formilised processes start being useful. Templates for documents, outsourcing of general bookkeeping, directory structures, prior work to refer to etc. At this point it is far better if you have someone like yourself driving the process adoption ... if its done properly.

So what is properly? Well its a balance between making things better, more consistant and enabling the business to scale up WITHOUT getting in peoples way and causing larger problems and "more work for no point".

This is a tightrope I am still learning to walk. Basically I watch what happens the first few times, people will start grabbing the "last time we did this" and modifying it to "suit this time" ... that is when I take the old and the new, try and guess the "essence" that I can turn into a template, automation piece or process.

I then ask the people who created the first few versions to see if I got it right. This has 3 benefits, it improves the process and lets others know there is a standardisation and gets others involved and "owning the process" they will then tell others to do it the same way (otherwise its out of sight, out of mind).

The other part of your question I think your asking is "how do i sell it to them?" ... this is harder.

  • Lead by example. Show the benefits of always having the right set of processes.
  • Have a discussion about hiring the next round of poeple ... how do we ensure they do the right thing?
  • Allow the current people to be the ones "defining their world".
  • Provide a simple starting point ... the directory structure on a server OR wiki OR where ever is appropriate for them. Be prepared to rework it with them until you get it right.
  • Take it slow and let it build.

Not sure how you work it in for them but your point is that be it an an aircraft carrier (big business) or a small racing ship (new startup), processes and everyone working together seemlessly makes the whole work much better with everyone knowing what they should be doing and how they should do it.

answered May 18 '11 at 15:41
Robin Vessey
8,394 points
  • The book Predictable Success by Les McKeown is a great outline of this process and how to navigate it. But don't expect it to be easy to convince others; a lot of small business owners aren't in it to act like a bigger business or even to grow their business a lot. Your best chance is if they really want something to change and you can show you've been there before. – Richardg 13 years ago

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