Is the Process in Your Business More Important Than the Outcome?


Is the Process in Your Business More Important Than the Outcome?

Has the process in your business become more important than the outcome? And is it actually harming your business?

After presenting at a conference for Small Business owners recently, one of the delegates shared a wonderful story with me. I’m pretty sure it’s an urban myth, but like other urban myths, it had just that hint of believability…

The story is ostensibly about safety, but at its core, it’s about what happens when a process becomes more important than the intended outcome.

If you follow my posts, you will know that I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to documenting business systems. It’s a whole section in my Small Company, Big Business book and program. There is just so much to be gained by having good, robust and documented systems, and businesses take a quantum leap when they get this aspect of management under control.

The problem comes when sticking to the procedure exactly – even when the circumstances are totally inappropriate – overcomes a sensible, desired outcome and a chokepoint develops, derailing the business’ operations.

An Urban Myth with a hint of truth.  

Anyone who has ever been to a mine site will know the complicated process and procedures required. You have to undertake certain training and inductions, including a medical certificate. Your equipment must meet exacting standards. There are rules to follow for everything you do – even what you can wear – all that hi-vis you see on TV is compulsory.

The desired outcome is keeping people safe, and this is all regulated under the Mining Safety and Health Act – and its equivalents in other states.

The Story.

One day, so the story goes, an Ambulance arrived at the mine entrance gate. The reason for the ambulance’s visit wasn’t included in the story. 

The gate person checked the vehicle for compliance – permit, correct tyres, lights, flag, chocks, safety triangle and so on. Then he asked the driver to see the first aid kit – mandatory in vehicles going onto a mine site. 

Supposedly, the ambulance driver laughed, thinking it was a joke. But as the story goes, he wasn’t. The gatekeeper needed to tick off that he’d seen a First Aid kit. And he would not let the Ambulance enter the site. Despite the fact that an ambulance is a giant first aid kit with an engine and wheels, the rules had to be obeyed. No first aid kit – no entry.

As I said, I’m pretty sure that the ambulance story is an urban myth. At the same time I have seen plenty of similar instances. I’ve got lots of examples where, like this, ticking a box and following a procedure was more important than the outcome.

Some of the conference attendees even chimed in with their own stories, so there’s clearly no shortage of examples.

Has the ambulance stopped at your business gate?

Inevitably, as our companies grow, procedures and processes have to become more detailed, with more people, more assets etc. The trick is to always have the overall goal in sight and prevent choke points developing.

Following a process for creating procedures is your best defence against having the ambulance stopped at your business gate.

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