Wednesday, January 05, 2011

The Power of Frameworks - Respect the Process

After winning the Orange Bowl, Jim Harbaugh saluted his team for "respecting the process." 

Stanford's Carol Dweck (must read book MindSet) argues that growth-mindset people focus on the "process and not the outcome."

With an outcome in their sights (lose weight, sell more, pick new year's resolutions, rebrand), most people jump right in.

However, outcomes are derivative of commitment to a sound process. Without a clear process, most people fail or practice random acts of violence that may or may not work.

Since becoming a CEO, I have come to appreciate the wisdom of frameworks and processes.  Whenever I think about an outcome, I must catch my enthusiasm to reach it and instead, step back, and define a process for how to realize the goal.  The universal application of "process vs outcomes" is very real. In fact, I find that any process is better than no process at all and the specific process matters far less than committing to one.

For example, how did you pick your New Year's Resolutions?  How are you planning to lose weight?  How will you develop a strategic development plan? Forecast sales....Develop software?

To take one example - New Year's Resolutions - the American Association of Happiness happens to have a very handy framework with which to develop a sound list.  MAPS - pursue personal resolutions that will result in MEANING - AUTHENTICITY - PURPOSE - STRENGTHS.

I would argue that the power of frameworks compounds across the # of team members - ie the more people that you have working to a goal, the more value you will derive from a joint commitment to a process. Why? Frameworks provide a common mental model, semantics, structure that help overcome individual idiosyncrasies and biases. The shared model provides a vocabulary for common action, dialog, and progress. Without a framework, individual biases will make communication challenging - leading to frustration and failed missions.

Little in the world is truly new. For any particular goal - running a marathon, swimming a mile, to brand positioning - there are sound frameworks. The value of frameworks helps teams focus on the "upstream" work that will lead to the outcome rather than the outcome itself. Moreover, the value of a process compounds with the # of team members - the larger the team the greater the value.

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