May the Process Be with You

Yoda once said “Do or not do. There is no try.” I’ve found those words less than helpful. In almost 35 years of working with teams to improve results, sales, market penetration, and team solidarity, as well as reach a myriad of other goals, I never saw anyone, as Nike says, “Just Do It.” But I have seen a lot of success using the process I recommend.

Here is the truth about anything we do. We want a certain outcome. But we can’t wish it so. We can’t make it happen. We can’t manage the successful outcome. We can only manage the processes that can lead to the desired outcome.

In other words, we can’t just do. We have to try.

How many of us were raised believing that it’s better to win than lose? Better to possess than be without? Better to be right than wrong?

These are all outcomes. When the dust settles, you either have won or lost, have it or don’t, are right or wrong. That outcome didn’t just occur. There was a series of events that led to the outcome. Those events are what we can manage.

New rally drivers often have an idea that they can actually drive fast enough to beat somebody else. The goal for the weekend is to beat Harry. As the co-driver, that’s my cue to get out of the car because, in my experience, this is a formula for disaster.

Sometimes data is simply overlooked by my new driver. Harry might have more experience and better equipment, but…gotta beat Harry. Occasionally Harry will accommodate my driver by crashing out or having mechanical difficulties. But most of the time, with my guy focused on going faster than Harry, Harry beats us. If we’re lucky, we stayed on the road. But getting caught up in going as fast as Harry, when the skill set is not there, usually results in us off the road and not finishing.

Only when I can get a driver to concentrate on incremental improvement do I even have a chance of putting him or her on the podium. Most of my experienced drivers agree to ignore the times we’re turning and avoid making comparisons with our close competitors. Did we give 100% on that last stage? Was I on the notes? Was the driver trusting me to the max? Did the car perform as anticipated? If all those questions are answered in the affirmative, then that’s what we’ve got. Pushing any harder probably crashes us out. If it’s good enough to win, then we win. If not, then we don’t.

We aren’t going into the race thinking we have to do it; we have to win. We are getting 100% out of driver, co-driver, and car during the race. We’re trying. If it’s not enough, then we need to find more seat time for practice, more horsepower and torque, or better suspension.

I’m often quoted as saying “We can’t manage results. We can only manage processes.”

My belief is this: Try or don’t try. There is no do without try.

“Do” is the shortcut we’ve all been sold. Nike gets our testosterone surging with the swoop. Yoda can lead a galaxy with it. But the people who actually get things done on a regular basis, who live the lives they want, are the ones who manage their processes to develop the outcomes they want.

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