Process is like most things in life, it needs balance. The hard part is determining where the right balance is for a company.

Companies that focus too heavily on process can slip into the all-to-common roll of being a workhorse. Producing medium quality work that lacks feel and creativity. Yet, companies that can’t reign in certain aspects of process tend to lose money and long-term durability. The key lies in finding a medium.

Implementation of a strict process can help companies rebound in times when individuals aren’t present. Yet, companies must be careful. The ability to swap individuals in and out has a cost. There’s a reason small businesses sometimes change the game all together and not just the rules. Small companies thrive on being nimble and innovative. These two things are the result of talented individuals working together as a family. If you remove this aspect from a company, over time it will bloat, lose drive, and eventually quality will diminish.

Case in point, rather than: check your approach, verify other team members understand and agree, confirm the customer is on board, document it, and then start. It’s better to just do it. If the result is good: add it to your toolshed, document it, and teach others. If not, eat crow, fix it, and move on. My feeling is most of the time this gamble pays off. Especially if your people are high caliber and your customer buys into the strategy.

However, for small companies it’s a facade to pretend that you can replace a family member and keep moving forward like nothing happened. A company, especially one that strives to break barriers, will always be hurt by the loss of a key individual. There is no way around this. The goal of a good process shouldn’t be to avoid this all together, but rather to mitigate its damage. Employee happiness, company profit, high quality work, and long-term sustainability should be enhanced by process. Not stifled. This… is not easy.

Best of luck to all companies (including us) who are trying to combat this challenge

  • Kevin Smith

    I think you are spot on here. There has to be a balance between the controls imposed by rigorous process implementation and the creativity and innovation necessary to maintain a thriving organization. The real trick with process implementation is know when enough is enough. Too many companies build layer after layer of process thinking that the ream of documentation will solve all their problems – it never does. At the same time, at a minimum, a skeletal framework of expected behaviors is key to getting the whole team moving in the same direction. As Patton once said “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.” Give them a basic framework and the right team will do the right thing every time.

  • Bruce Clark


    Well said. Your insight is well taken.