Processes Matter More than Goals

Processes Matter More than Goals

Processes Matter More than Goals

If there’s one ubiquitous think all managers agree on, it’s that you need to set goals in order to get where you want to go. Well, today I’m going to get a bit heretical, because I don’t believe goals are top dog in the world of management. I believe that processes are the true king.

goalsLet’s talk about why.

Goals Change

No matter what goals you set for yourself, they will always change. The market will change. Your customers will change. Technology will change. Priorities will change. You will change.

What you think is important today is temporary. It will not last.

Processes are different. It’s not that processes don’t change. It’s that they acknowledge and embrace change. Processes are designed to expect and react to change when it is least expected. Processes are dynamic.

Processes teach us how our business actually functions.

When you understand the underlying processes of your business, your industry, and your market, you understand how to adapt and set new goals in the most effective way possible.

Goals Do Not Offer Insight

We define goals. They do not teach us anything, unless perhaps they are goals set by mentors and personal heroes that change the way we see things.

We do not always define processes, and management is most effective when we fully understand the fact that we can’t completely control them. When we don’t understand processes, they often spiral out of control, rendering our goals meaningless. When we discover and learn from processes, we become better at steering them in the right direction, whatever that direction may be, and whenever it needs to change.

Goals alone lead to broken measurement systems. Our yardstick tells us how close we are to the end zone. It doesn’t tell us how to advance the ball down the field, or why our playbook doesn’t cut it anymore.

Goals Don’t Offer Actionable Plans

This blog post is not making a statement about process goals versus outcome goals. It is a statement about processes versus goals in general.

At first, this seems like an odd statement to make. What is an actionable plan other than a set of process goals? But in reality, that’s putting the cart before the horse. Process goals don’t help us build actionable plans. They are a byproduct of actionable plans.

If our process goals are merely defined, without any understanding of the process itself, our “actionable” plan is going to fall apart.

In fact, many modern management techniques ignore the concept of a “plan” entirely. “Big design up front” is a dirty word in some circles, because plans inevitably fail to account for surprises and breakdowns that couldn’t possibly have been predicted.

Processes do not fail. They merely exist.

When we understand how they work, we can use them to our advantage. When we don’t, we resign ourselves to the power of wishful thinking and luck.

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