June 16, 2008 -- Another lesson from the US Open -- Results v. Processes
Results v. Process
Tiger Woods has done it again. He won the 108th US Open in a barnburner of a play-off, managing to come back again from one stroke down on the 18th hole, and winning it in sudden death on the 19th hole of the play-off, the 91st hole of the tournament.
Rocco Mediate made many forty-something and fifty-something golfers proud. He also showed some of his younger competitors what a little guts, hard work, and mental fortitude could do to allow him to go toe-to-toe with the number one golfer of the world. If Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott, Ernie Els, Sergio Garcia had even a smidgen of Rocco’s mental toughness, Tiger’s journey to break Nicklaus’ record could become more challenging.
After making the putt on the final hole on Sunday to tie Mediate, Tiger told the media, “I was just focused on making a good stroke.” He made the right read, he decided on the correct pace, and took the proper backswing, and made a solid stroke. Whether he made it or not, he was happy with his own effort. The result, however, did matter, and in that instance, it worked out.
Result versus Process, which is more important? This seems to be a perennial question for folks in the consulting and business world. I’ve been in a consultant for 25 years, and I tell every single staff consultant, never promise to the client a result. Just promise the process—what we will do—and then deliver the results.
A person that is great in process but fails to deliver the result will end up being told, “hey, you’re a great team player,” and rarely enjoys the spoils of victory. On the other hand, one who is totally focused on results, without regard to process will always be told, “hey, you’re the man,” and will have few followers or pupils. Someone who could deliver neither can become President of the United States, but that’s another story.
The true winners are those who can master the process while delivering the results, perhaps not every time, but enough to be considered “successful.” They are the ones that will have followers, because processes could be taught, results, can’t. People who excel at processes are also the greatest teachers. They are the least likely to make catastrophic errors. They are the ones who would say, “I trusted my swing,” or “I just focused on my release,” or “I just dealt with what I could control.” And if practiced enough times, processes do lead to results.
Going back to the world of business, consultancies that guarantee results are pretty much like a boxer that predicts a knock-out. Very few can do it, many fail at it, and most are long forgotten. Those businesses that promise a process, well communicated and executed, have a much likelier chance of getting great results—results that can be duplicated.
It isn’t surprising that those who get the great results are always the ones who’ve practiced the processes the most.
So when Jack Welch preaches that Winning is everything, he’s right, but just remember that sometimes, it’s the “how” that’s more important than the “what.”