By Lee Murray, current student of the University of Sydney Business School MBA program and Business Leader Postgraduate Scholarship recipient.
There is much discussion regarding the merit of focusing on the process rather than an outcome or result. It is often raised in various environments where individuals or teams pursue excellence in any given trade. There is no better example of this than the sporting cliché “we have to take it one week at a time”. But this simple cliché has a deep underlying meaning for anyone who seeks the best chance of success for themselves or their team.
The definition of process and outcome.
“Taking it one week at a time” implies a requirement to continue applying your efforts each day to the steps you believe are necessary to be successful; i.e. following a process. The process is one that you believe, trust and commit yourself to mastering. The outcome is what we seek to achieve, our definition of success, that we often believe to be a consequence of the process we followed.
The downfalls of focusing on outcome.
Despite our best intentions to focus on the necessary steps, we may find our minds consumed with thoughts of the outcome we seek to achieve. As people we have a tendency to care for what others think and crave acknowledgement for what we achieve. If we achieve excellent results we look good in the eyes of others and feel as though rewards will follow. It is extremely easy to judge individual or team performance based on the result. These thoughts can lead to negative emotions of disappointment, frustration and anger. The mind is then led astray as we lose focus of the necessary steps and transition to searching for short cuts and alternate ways to achieve the outcome.
Why process is important.
The process you follow is something you can control. External factors may also influence an excellent result despite a lack of effort or commitment to mastering the steps. In this scenario, if one was to judge performance purely based on result, then poor technique may be reinforced. Focusing on process will uncover these flaws and eliminate wasted thoughts on what is beyond your control.
So how can you focus on process to achieve consistent results?
Forget what others think and do not define yourself or your team by short-term results. Maintain a long-term perspective focused on mastery.
Define what steps are necessary to achieve the intended outcome and commit to mastering each step. Apply the required time and effort to master the process and reward this effort.
Measure success by the number of actions or effort applied to master a step in the process; e.g. the desired outcome may be an HD for an assessed presentation, but the process is the research, consultation and repetitions you complete in the lead up.
Focus on what you can control. There are factors beyond our control that will affect the outcome, don’t waste time worrying about them; e.g. you cannot completely control an interview panel’s decision to hire you, but you can completely control the preparation you undertake for the interview.
We should never lose sight of the outcome we seek to achieve, but it is the process where we must commit our time and effort to give ourselves the best chance of success.