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Process cults  

Alex Payne writes an insightful attack on the idea that dutifully following a process will get you a successful startup:

Process Cults form around a set of business practices that, when judiciously applied, are supposed to yield a profitable, successful business run by shiny, happy people. The startup segment of the business book market has its favorites:

  • Eric Reis’s lean startup and associated book.
  • Steve Blank’s customer development and associated book.
  • 37signals’ methodology, as expressed in the books Getting Real and REWORK.

I have read all of the above. I don’t necessarily agree or disagree with their contents. What I disagree with is the notion that anyone should start or operate a business in the explicit mold of someone else’s experience, as reduced to a couple hundred pages padded with illustrations and diagrams.

I believe processes are in fact helpful, but only when supported by a solid set of skills backed by painfully earned experience.

Importantly, a process can help you avoid some common mistakes. Processes are like recipes, but they are not recipes - they are much more open-ended. Yes, every business is different, but most businesses fail in common and avoidable ways and following a well-tested process will at least reduce the chance you fail in a boring way (though it may not increase the chance you succeed).

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