(Hat tip to Mark Hunter for the photo)
Zen and the art of process
Hitting the bull’s-eye is all well and good, but it’s useless if you can’t repeat the process.
A good competitive archer doesn’t just aim and hope for the best each time, they work on their breathing, posture and relaxation – they work on their process in order to hone it and repeat it.
Focussing on the outcome might be business 101, but it makes for inconsistent results. Focussing on the process and being conscious of it, however, allows you to perfect it so you can produce excellent results every time.
Focus, process and results
The outcome certainly shouldn’t be ignored – you need to know what you’re aiming for, after all – but by getting the process right, the right outcome will naturally follow.
And, by attaching more worth to the effort you put in towards your goal, you become more focussed on the present moment and the process itself becomes more rewarding and worthwhile.
While it does require some investment of time and effort, figuring out and establishing a logical set of processes for each task produces benefits in the long run that far outweigh the initial investment:
- Process, unlike the outcome, is measurable and repeatable. You got 200 new customers from your marketing campaign. Great! But how did you do it?
- Recording your process means that if the result is bad you can look back, find the weak link and adapt it. Focussing on the process rather than the result encourages experimentation and innovation.
- In the long run, having a good process for routine tasks gives you more time to focus on the more important and profitable aspects of your work.
- It helps you focus and stop procrastinating. If you’re fixated on the destination and have no idea how to get there, your mind will wander. If, however, you have a set of steps to follow, it’s always clear what to do next and how to get to where you’re going.
- If you need to train a colleague or new hire, you can use your best practice to give them a rough guideline which they can then adapt and build on, letting them hit the ground running.
- With process you can also more accurately value and organise your time. If you know the steps, you know roughly how long the task will take and you can more effectively structure your day.
The Goldilocks principle of process
This is not to say, however, that you should produce a perfect set of processes that you can then tattoo on the back of your hand – process should never become dogmatic. Even if you think you’ve honed your processes, there are always improvements to be made. If you or a colleague find a better way or better tool to do something, experiment with it and see if it’s more effective.
Equally, you don’t want to produce unnecessary bureaucracy. Too much process stifles creativity and productivity, but just the right amount can streamline work and act as a real competitive advantage. And, as we’ve said before, process shouldn’t be imposed; it should be created collaboratively. Process should empower and encourage, not imprison.
Focus on just the outcome and you’ll occasionally achieve excellence, but focus on the process and you’ll consistently create great results.