The People vs. Process Spectrum

Written by Dave Bailey

People practising yoga to find balance

New companies usually have few processes in place, so team members are often encouraged to ‘figure it out’. But as the team grows, so does the complexity.

The intuitive solution is to create standard processes and train your team to use them. However, as the number of processes grows, you may find your company becomes too rigid, slow-moving, and bureaucratic.

How do you strike the right balance?

Whenever you come across the word ‘balance’, try to clarify the two extreme ends. In this case, the extremes might be:

  • The ‘people’ extreme: People are free to choose how they complete their goals, even if their way doesn’t leverage existing work and negatively affects other stakeholders.
  • The ‘process’ extreme: People must follow a standard process, even if they identify a more efficient, or effective, way to complete their goals.

Identifying the extremes helps you tease out the pros and cons, and move to a ‘both/and’ solution. For example, you may want to empower people to choose the best way to achieve their goals, while leveraging existing work and respecting other stakeholders.

Wait. Leveraging existing work? Respecting other stakeholders? They’re behaviours, aren’t they? Yes, and that’s the insight: if you want to balance people and process, focus on your culture. 


Originally published Apr 16, 2021, last updated Jun 1, 2021


About Dave Bailey

Hi, I’m Dave Bailey and I coach tech CEOs from Series A to pre-IPO. Join 20,000 entrepreneurs who receive my new essay every week. 

I will never sell your information, for any reason.

Trending essays

How to Use Nonviolent Communication at Work

All my biggest regrets as a founder are around not having difficult conversations sooner...

How to Coach Your Team and Get The Result You Want

If you’ve found it difficult to get the results you want from other people, try this simple technique...

How to Drive a Culture of Ownership

Do you wish your team took more ownership? Here’s how to trust them to get the job done without you...

10 Communication Techniques Used by Great Leaders

Whether you’re leading a meeting, a team, or a company, your ability to communicate can set you apart...

How to Ask Your Team The Right Questions

To improve your ability to ask great questions, it helps to understand the types of questions you can ask...

A Guide to Running Exceptional One-on-Ones

How effective are your one-on-ones? Here's a practical guide for managers and their direct reports...

Serious about levelling up as a CEO?

The Clarity Program is an accelerated coaching program that helps startup and scale-up CEOs communicate their customer need, strategy, and vision.

Learn about Clarity

Previously, Dave co-founded Delivery Hero and other scale-ups, and he's coached hundreds of scale-up CEOs across the US, Europe, Asia and Latin America.

Dave studied at Stanford Graduate School of Business and Oxford University. His writing has been featured in many of the world's top business publications. He has a passion for communication and strategy.

Learn more about Dave

©2023 Founder Coaching Limited. All Rights Reserved.
FOUNDER COACH® is a registered trademark of Founder Coaching Limited.