Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Process grows solution-fruit; events go bang and wilt!

I worked with a person a couple of years ago who was charged with building an alumni organization. She was never successful.

Why?

Because she failed to understand the difference between process and event.

Building anything takes time

She kept trying to hold one-time, big-hit events: a dinner, an outing, a meeting with a special speaker, and so on. She thought these would draw alums in the area out of the woodwork. They didn’t.

The advice I and others gave to her was to hold monthly meetings on the same day of each month for at least 6 months. I told her these meetings would be sparsely attended at first, but over time, more and more alums in the area would be drawn in. Then, after several months, once a critical mass had been achieved, try an event organized by those who were showing up for the monthly meetings.

Those who came and kept coming and who invited others to attend would be the best ambassadors for building a larger organization. In other words, use those who had become engaged over time to reach out enthusiastically to others.

Slow and steady isn’t as pretty as a showcase

The problem with the advised approach?

It was too hard. It took too long to create visible outputs. And if there was one goal she had that she was determined to achieve at any cost, it was to be able to show off visible outputs all the time.

She lived for the big bang here and now, not for the long term.

What she needed to be successful was to implement a process, but all she was willing to do was target “showcase” events.

Outcomes are lasting; outputs are once and done

Seth Godin stated in his blog, “Events are easier to manage, pay for, and get excited about. Processes build results for the long haul.”

Events are easy. Process is hard. Both can be costly, but only one yields the desired outcomes as opposed to ephemeral outputs.

Usually, the primary result of an event that anyone cares about is how many people showed up. If it’s a fundraising event, it’s all about the money pledged.

Neither of these outputs drive long term outcomes.

Process aims to establish relationships, change behaviors, or create the means for maintaining ongoing momentum. These are outcomes.

A wedding may be an event, but it is the outcome of a relationship building process that will continue past this one event. It’s one point on the eternal timeline of the process called life.

Events can be triggers for a follow-up process

If it’s big and loud enough, a flashy event can be used to kick-start a process. After the event, you can then begin to contact and woo the attendees, seeking to engage them in an ongoing process. But this is really difficult to accomplish.

If the event is “successful” with lots of attendees (outputs), odds are that there will be some enthusiasm generated that will serve as motivation to begin and maintain the follow-up process that will yield relationship outcomes. You also have to be sure that you’ve captured all the requisite information from attendees, which is awfully hard to do when there’s a party going on.

If the event fails to draw the hoped-for numbers, then motivation for follow-up will be low, and with a smaller pool, the success of the follow-up effort is iffy.

An event that was preceded by a steady, momentum-building process that will continue passed the event will yield far better outcomes.

Process is forever; solutions are the fruit

Outcomes are better results than outputs, but even better than results are solutions, and that’s what process will drive you to.

When a person enters therapy, they will want to see results, but their ultimate hope is for the outcome of a solution that resolves their issues.

Results can get them on their feet, but a solution keeps them walking.

Customers and constituencies want solutions.

  • The result of process is outcomes that lead to solutions. Process is the tree that produces blossoms of outcomes that grow into solution-fruit.
  • The result of events is outputs. An event is like a beautiful vase of fresh cut flowers that are here today and wilted tomorrow.

Think of it like this: Process is a timeline that extends into the future. An event may appear on that timeline, but it is not the end point.

An event is a closed loop. It doesn’t point to anything outside of itself if it’s not part of a process. It comes, it ends, and that’s that.

If you’re trying to grow your business, your membership, or your constituency, you need to cultivate a process that will yield ongoing fruit. Events that aren’t rooted in process are ultimately dead ends.

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Thoughts?

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