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Focus: Process or Results?

by Orest (Orry) Fiume
April 20, 2016

Focus: Process or Results?

by Orest (Orry) Fiume
April 20, 2016 | Comments (7)

Many have heard me quote Art Byrne’s comment that “The winners will be those that focus on the process, not the results.” Well, that comment applies to lots of other things besides business.

David Feherty, a former pro golfer from Northern Ireland and golf announcer for the past 20 years was recently interview by Golf Magazine. During the interview Feherty was asked what’s behind Tiger Woods’ poor play in recent years. His response was “I think he has more anxiety about winning than he used to. In his prime, he only paid attention to what he was doing - the physical act of hitting the shot - and no attention whatsoever to the result. He’s lost a bit of focus on the process…Tiger still has the ability, but for the last two or three years he’s been too invested in the result rather than in owning the action.”

“If you see the image you want through your viewfinder it’s too late to capture it." Bryce Harper is with the Washington Nationals. Photo courtesy of Greg Fiume

This focus on process is common to all endeavors since everything we do, in our business or personal lives, is done in the context of some process. My son is a professional sports photographer. I have sat beside him and taken the same photos of the same game, but there is a world of difference between the quality of his photos and mine. He is fond of saying “if you see the image you want through your viewfinder it’s too late to capture it.” He then explains that to be a good photographer you have to know your tools…i.e. your camera’s capabilities and the basis rules of photography (speed, aperture, composition, etc.). But to be a good sports photographer you need to be able to anticipate. You have to really understand the game so that you can anticipate how the action will develop in any given situation; and further, how each player plays the game, since each has his or her own style. That is about process. The attached photo that Greg took is a good example of this. Bryce Harper, in his first year with the Washington Nationals represented the winning run on second base. Knowing how emotional this young rookie player was, Greg ignored the hitter knowing that if there was a hit, Bryce was going to react. Which is exactly what happened. This photo of Harper running to home plate is the result.

Some people interpret Art’s statement as meaning that Wiremold was not interested in results. That could not be further from the truth. In fact, our strategy statement said, in part, that we wanted to become “one of the top ten time-based competitors in the world” because time is the currency of lean. In business, the output of any process can be in one of three states: being worked on, waiting to be worked on, or moving from one place to another in order to wait to be worked on. Waiting is waste, moving is waste, and in most cases some of the work being done doesn’t add value for the customer and is therefore waste. This waste can consume up to 90% of the elapsed time it takes for the output to go from the first to the last step in the process. If we want to reduce lead time, first focus on eliminating moving and waiting (which generally requires some type of physical change) and then focus on eliminating the work that does not add value. At Wiremold, we were able to reduce lead times from 4 to 6 weeks to days, and sometime hours.

The results we want, in business, sports, chess, etc. is to win. In business, this means satisfying the customer better than the competition. But we cannot improve results “directly." It can only be achieved by improving those processes (production, product development, support, etc) that produce results.

Orry Fiume will share more lean knowledge in his upcoming workshop, Lean Accounting, to be held May 19th in Chicago. Learn more and register for Orry's workshop here.

The views expressed in this post do not necessarily represent the views or policies of The Lean Enterprise Institute.
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Mark Graban April 20, 2016

Great stuff. The right process brings the right results. 

There's a great article / book about this called "Obliquity" that comes at this from a different perspective than Lean. The author points out that the indirect approach works best... focusing too much on profits or cost (the result) leads to worse performance. You have to work on the things that affect the result (which include process, system design, etc.).

I recently saw an article in the USA Today that talked about baseball and how more players and coaches are realizing that a bad result of "0 for 4" isn't really anything to get upset about if you hit the ball hard each time but right at somebody.

Results matter... but if you start pressing too hard for results, that leads to a slump.

https://twitter.com/MarkGraban/status/720662527835639808

The USA Today article:

http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/mlb/2016/04/13/bobby-tewksbary-major-league-hitting-guru/82972506/

 



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Orry Fiume April 21, 2016

Thanks Mark.  The articles that you reference are right on.  "Obliquity" covers a lot of ground, but the best quote, as it pertains to business, is " the financial returns of a business record what it achieves but are not the means by which it is achieved".  Thanks for your contribution to this discussion.



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Mark Graban April 20, 2016

Here is the Obliquity article by John Kay:

http://www.johnkay.com/2004/01/17/obliquity



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art byrne April 20, 2016
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Orry, great article. Most traditional companies put their focus on results. They close the books from last month three weeks into this month and then spend a lot of time and effort reviewing those results. By doing this they are constantly looking backwards. After all last months results already happened. You can't do anything about them now. It is like trying to drive your car through the rear view mirror. The only thing that will improve your future results is improving the processes that gave you last months results. Look forward, not backward.



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Orry Fiume April 21, 2016

Right on Art.  And the criminal part of the monthly reviews is that he questions asked all start with "who" and not "what".  Thanks.



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Jessie Reyes April 22, 2016

Great stuff. Great examples to help us keep focused on the cause of great results.



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gary brooks April 25, 2016

Great article ori.

Focus on process vs results, changes culture and behavior.  Get the entire organization focusing on the elimination of waste, resutls will follow.   I can only hope that our government can adopt these basic principles, but without leadership, i am not hopeful.

 

Gary



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