Sunday, June 28, 2009

The power of process: Getting the cart and horse lined up right via "a keen sense of sequence"

I love process. It’s everywhere, even in what seems chaos. It’s fun to encounter a Gordian’s knot tangle of a situation, because when you take the time to “proceed to untangle the entire area*,” sense emerges and process can be applied.

Pastor Ken, my Fishers, Indiana pastor, commented about me, saying, “He became the default project manager, always keeping an eye on where we were in the overall process we were working on. He has a keen sense of sequence ….”

I love that phrase “keen sense of sequence.” It’s accurate and fits me. What a wonderful compliment!

Simply defined, process is “a series of actions, changes, or functions bringing about a result.” It’s seeing the whole while managing all the pieces in the correct sequence to yield optimum results. It’s understanding what elements can be done in parallel and what must be iterative.

If you are seeking any kind of result, driving toward any objective, trying to accomplish any goal, then process is essential to your success.

Paul applies process to faith by stating in Philippians 2:12, “...continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling....” Even righteousness is not about once and done. It’s a process that takes place throughout our lives.

In Luke 14:28-32, Jesus talks about process:
“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace.”
Building a house starts with establishing a firm foundation and then building up. You don’t start with a roof and work down. You don’t put a roof on until the supporting walls are framed up. You don’t put in the wiring after the walls are drywalled and painted.

Everything needs to happen at just the right time in the right order.

The first step in any process is assessment. You need to assess if you have the resources, time, money, people, knowledge, skill, information, and whatever else you need to accomplish your goal. If your project is to write an article, then your resources include, at a minimum, time and research.

Your second process step is to map out your steps, create a blueprint, develop a project plan. For your article, you need to allot time for research and time for writing that ensures you meet your deadline. Then, when you are ready to write, you need to create a map (or outline) for your article.

Many times process is usurped because someone is in a hurry and feels the process is hindering progress. They just want it done all at once—right now! So they step out of the process or try to skip steps.

What happens when process is ignored?

Buildings eventually collapse, misplaced decimals bankrupt companies, typos litter writing, facts are not checked, trains collide, planes run out of fuel, unedited comments spark wars, work must be redone, recipes are botched, reputations are tarnished, lives are risked or lost.

Well, you get the point. Ignoring process is always more costly than respecting it. Period.

Before embarking on any endeavor, stop, count the cost, lay out the sequence, hold steady, and be patient as you walk out your process.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step followed by another, and another, and another…one step at a time...with “a keen sense of sequence.”

* CSN&Y – Preface comment to
“Almost Cut My Hair” on their 1970 album, Déjà Vu. I always heard it as “untangle, however others indicate he's saying “entangle, which to me, does not make sense, so I'm sticking with my interpretation.

Have you ever just run ahead into a project without taking the time to get organized? How did that work out for you? Do you get frustrated with chaos? How do you deal with it? Is process important?

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