Is success results or process driven?

What should drive an organization's success, results or process? Does an organization need to identify the results and then figure out the best way to achieve them or do they need to develop a great process and then follow it to the letter? Let me suggest that it's neither.

I realize that this might sound counter-intuitive, but success is not about results or process, it's about people and execution.

The Six Sigma black belts and Lean proponents will tell you it's all about process. Develop a great process, eliminate all of the waste from that process, standardize it across the organization and you will get great results. Sure, that might work if you are building a widget using automation, but what if my desired result is top-notch customer service? You can have the best process in the world, but if your people make bad decisions, you will not achieve those results.

Similarly, when we try to determine results and then figure out the best way to achieve them, we make our view too narrow. If a particular department wants to save money, they will develop ways of operating that focus on saving money. But what if making long-term investments would be the most profitable growth opportunity for the organization? This opportunity is in conflict with the results trying to be achieved (saving money), so the organization will not be able to capitalize on it.

There is a distinction we need to make between being results-oriented and results-driven. Organizations should be results-oriented to ensure that they are growing, as outcomes are important, but organizations need to ensure that they are not so focused on specific results that they miss out on other opportunities.

The same can be said for being process-driven. If you become a slave to the process, you stop thinking about results.

Organizations must strike a balance between the two. They need to understand what their future vision is and how they are going to achieve it. If they have the right people in place and are able to execute effectively, the right processes will be developed and the right results will be achieved. That is how an organization can be successful.


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