Process is the enemy

Tony Kam,startups

The word institution connotes bureaucracy, process, and even lethargy. How can that be part of a startup? Yet successful startups are full of activities associated with building an institution: hiring creative employees, coordinating their activities, and creating a company culture that delivers results.

For any company that wants to be innovative - process should be the enemy.

Most process is designed to slow people down. When there is too much process, the organization becomes slow.

When a company grows, it becomes hard to organize. Process is often added as a corrective action to something bad. Process is a necessary evil to protect the company. It reduces risk. But without taking risks, there is no innovation and process. If a company want to continue to ship fast, there must be a bias against process. All processes must be critically evaluated.

Process removes agency and choice from people. Process implies distrust in them to make the right decision on behalf of the company.

Process is automated management. Don't micro-manage. Good people don't need to be managed. Good people are those with good judgement. If feel the need to micro-manage, then you've hired wrong.

Hire people with good judgement. Hire for ability to make decisions and execute under extreme uncertainty. Trust their judgement when you do hire them. People must be accountable to their own decisions. They sign off on their work product and decisions. If that judgement is compromized, then it's time to let them go. The greatest measure of intelligence/decision making is whether if they get what they want. Do they they achieve their goals? Do they get things done? Hire to solve a problem for the company. Hire for clear demonstration of excellence. Hire for attitude and ability to learn. Hire for skillset.

Emower them with the information so that they can use their judgement to make decisions. Empower them with the ability and resources to collect data to access risk, determine costs and trade offs. If there is not enough data, then the tools need to be created to do so. With data, decisions often become clearer. Decision need to be made fast. If there is pain to make decision. Will more data make the decision easier? Can the decision be pushed off?

Align them with the organizational goals. Ensure communication is clear. At Tesla, we were encouraged to have open communication. 1



  1. Elon's communication memo.