First rate hackers need process too

Erik Meijer and Vikram Kapoor make a bold claim in The Responsive Enterprise: Embracing the Hacker Way:

In a high-tech company composed of first-rate hackers, there is no need for process.

I call bullshit.

Perhaps it's just wording, perhaps we have different concepts of process, but this is important. Absolute statements made with no hint of irony can only be taken at face value.

I respect Erik Meijer; I enjoy his articles, and I think he writes a lot of sense. Like Erik, I dislike being slowed down by process. That said, on this point I think he is wrong.

Can any organization that totally shuns process be trusted to develop high quality output? NASA, Boeing, Airbus, medical, weapons, telecom and transport manufacturers develop products where even small errors can lead to unintended deaths. Without process, rockets would explode, airplanes would fall out of the sky, pacemakers would spin out of control, tanks would inadvertently kill civilians, calls to emergency services would go unanswered and trains would crash into each other. Software development sans process leads to failure on a massive scale.

No matter how skilled the developers are that comprise a team, humans are fallible. We fail. We fail regularly. When we fail, process helps us recover.

Most developers understand this. Even staunchly independent developers embrace process that has tangible benefits.

The authors list the benefits of rapid reaction closed-loop systems, AB testing, Continuous delivery, and Chaos-Monkey. Surely they must realize these are all forms of process with one goal - quickly mitigate human failure.

The truth is, I do not think Meijer and Kapoor advocate for the abolishment of process. I think the authors chose their words poorly. Instead, I think they advocate for the abolishment of practices that induce people and organizations to stagnate.