Work For The Process, Not The Goal
It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it.
Although we are all familiar with this common expression, its truth is often overlooked. In today’s competitive markets, many of us are more focused on the what than the how. What is the what? Results. It’s the mark you make with the hours you sell to society. Whether that’s units sold, projects finished, miles driven or any stop in between.
Results are important—sure. But they don’t materialize out of anxious fixation. The process leads to results. There’s simply no other way to get there. So why are we continually reminded to focus on our output—either by ourselves or by our employers?
I believe this model is fundamentally flawed. Worse still, it can be detrimental to a company’s identity—and an employee’s sanity—If it’s the only imperative imposed.
I can’t count how many times the boss rolled up on site, mandated an unrealistic goal and left the crew squabbling over how we were going to meet it. This always struck me as blatantly counter-productive because this kind of management disrupts the very process that leads to results in the first place.
Optimal work output occurs when everyone buys in to the cause. If the current purpose is to keep the boss happy by meeting his hasty deadlines, then fear is the primary motivator. Fear, though, is like jet-fuel—it burns hot for a time, but it’s not a sustainable source for long-term energy. Worse, it's liable to combust.
The workday is long already. Fear and conflict only work to lengthen in.
Consider the alternative: the boss rolls up, straps on his tool belt and surveys the landscape of the current project before him. He meets with the foreman to gain a feel for how things are going with the team. He seeks information about the process—the how—what's working, what isn’t, what unforeseen factors have emerged.
Now he's got the liberty to set a team goal based on an honest evaluation of the current conditions at hand. These can range from the day’s weather forecast to the materials on site to the emotional disposition of the supervisor on duty.
The reality is: a successful company is a successful cooperation. Good and bad outcomes are rarely the work of a single person. A project’s success is usually a testament to the internal synergy of the team that serviced it—day in, day out.
But here come the double standard: when things go well, it’s considered a collective success. But when things don’t go well, it’s considered someone’s personal failure. Whether that's yours or your colleague's, whether it's vocalized or not, blame darts around as the group skirts its collective responsibility.
This is a symptom of a results-driven operation.
If we work for the process, not the goal, we retain our collective power through the end of one project, and into the start of another. Both as individuals and as groups. That doesn't mean that results don't matter, it just means we give our work its due attention instead of treating it as a means to an end. Successful organizations are filled with people doing just that. They meet challenges as a team just as they succeed as a team.
If each person is running the program of I gotta get this done to satisfy X person, or, I gotta get this done before X time, they will never give the present task the awareness it deserves. Further still, they'll never hit that sacred flow state from which efficiency and productivity are born.
Are you results driven or process driven? How do you square these two perspectives to operate at your best?
By: Dylan Smart