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.”
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.