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  • Writer's pictureBill Petrie

Stop Trusting the "Process"

The "process" won't fix things by itself.

Whether it’s a professional football team or a sales-focused branded merchandise company, just about every organization employs some variation of “trust the process” as a core principle. The hope is that by trusting the process – any process – will carry the business forward and keep all involved focused on their jobs. In many cases, it’s as if the phrase itself has the power to help people create work that matters. This is especially true when things don’t go according to plan:

  • Production times are off. Trust the manufacturing process.

  • Revenue numbers are down. Trust the sales process.

  • There’s a talent deficiency. Trust the hiring process.

  • The marketing is terrible. Trust the creative process.

  • The products are just like everyone else’s. Trust the merchandising process.

This is how “trust the process” morphs into “let’s hope the process fixes things for us.” It becomes a false premise of optimism to minimize our innate fear of failure because if we simply trust the process, we will eventually achieve the goal. Clinging on to a mindset of trusting the process will provide a bit of solace – which can be needed in times of stress – but it will also coax you into being passive as you approach challenges. This is where the phrase is meaningless and becomes a crutch that will keep you and your team from tackling issues in meaningful ways.

Instead, trust the people who OWN the process.

When the mindset shifts to trusting the people who own and use the process instead of simply the process itself, we can be optimistic and realistic. For any strategy to have a positive impact, stakeholders must play an active role. Remember, a process alone has no agenda or ability to emote – it’s just a tool. Even so, organizations and people still grasp onto their specific “process” and cling to it for dear life:

  • Brands glom on to words that are often stand-ins for real action and meaning.

  • Salespeople use words that imply a product’s value and use that as a substitute for the value itself.

  • Enterprises tout their “commitment to excellence,” implying they only deliver the highest quality products/solutions when often the results are shoddy.

When people “trust the process” without intentional action, words like quality, value, and excellence become little more than meaningless terms and further erode the bond between provider and consumer. Only when people truly own the process and are granted the autonomy to adjust it as necessary to meet internal and external needs can any process yield the desired results.

Having a process is fine. Having a process owned by key stakeholders with the autonomy to adjust it as needed is game-changing. Stop using the crutch of trusting the process and start trusting people who own the process.

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