Many a coach is known to have said, “Trust the Process.” The utterance of such a phrase is heard with greater frequency when the outcomes are not favorable. That is to say, a team can be putting forth an optimal effort, making all of the right decisions, and executing on the best of intentions only to come up short on the scoreboard. Most teams and their fan base put a great deal of stock in the result; they measure their performance in terms of wins and losses. But the best teams are those who pay attention to effort, decisions, and execution even when the results are favorable. Sometimes we win based on little more than luck and sometimes we fall short even when we execute flawlessly. When we focus on process, the former happens infrequently and so does the latter.

Young teams have little choice but to embrace a “make it up as we go” mindset. They are executing an uncharted path and don’t have a roadmap to consult. When the results being generated are positive, this is an empowering and energizing phase in a team’s development. When the outcomes are less than optimal, it can be rather deflating and give all involved reason to question their performance, abilities, and commitment. Whether the outcomes are positive or not, it’s vital for such young teams to recognize what is working and what is not. And just because the outcome is positive, doesn’t mean the execution was optimal. When we execute in the absence of process, it’s important to take our lessons and codify our playbook for the benefit of the entire team.

We are all familiar with teams that have very detailed processes. Those teams can execute rather quickly when afforded the opportunity to stick to the script. But when asked to improvise, things come to a grinding halt. Teams like this have processes that don’t afford people the opportunity to think and, over time, that is exactly what they stop doing…thinking. The process is what generates the outcomes, until the process fails them. We have also likely witnessed teams that take great pride in improvising every day. These teams don’t necessarily execute quickly and the outcomes may not be duplicatable in the future, but they most certainly do so thoughtfully. Teams like this build processes on the back end to condition people to think, re-enforce behaviors, and allow others the opportunity to benefit from their learning.

Trusting the process is vital to a team’s evolution. If we only consider outcomes, we will be extremely frustrated when we repeatedly fall short and we fill ourselves with unearned bravado when we exceed expectations. If we focus on the process, the outcomes will come. If we focus on outcomes, the process never will. The key is to continually assess the relationship between process and outcomes, improving processes at every opportunity.

  • Have you ever been so pleased with the process that you were able to overlook a poor outcome?
  • Are you comfortable measuring success based purely on one or the other?
  • Are your processes helping others to think or preventing them from having the opportunity to?