What is really important

What is Really important – The End Result

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We often mistake what is really important – the end result is.

“Don’t mistake activity with achievement.”― John Wooden

John Wooden was arguably the most successful coach in the history of college basketball. He won ten NCAA national championships in a 12-year period as head coach at UCLA, including a record seven in a row. (See https://www.espn.com/mens-college-basketball/news/story?id=4365068)

Coach Wooden not only developed great basketball players, but more importantly great individuals. But, he knew and taught that at the end, it was the results that matter.

There is a debate about what is important. Some argue that the process is the most important aspect of what we do. They will argue that when you commit to the process a powerful transformation happens. If you do not focus on that, you the gains you achieve are on a short-lived basis. And the next time the outcome may not be as satisfying. So, the means justify the ends.

In my opinion, the end result is the most significant factor for you to consider.

This is what will determine exactly how far your business will go towards long-term success. It will also control how long it will take for you to reach your desired destination. In this case the end, justifies the means.

That does not mean that to get to a successful result that you do so unlawfully or by over controlling people. Instead, it means that it is a combination of what you do, how you do it and what is achieved at the end. If you do the first two things perfectly and achieve an incomplete result, then what you were doing and how you did it was flawed. If not, then the result should have been a success.

selective focus photography of arrow target

Too often in my career I was told by individuals that they were soooo busy. They were soooo busy and they couldn’t handle one more thing. Yet, day after day they seemed to accomplish nothing. There was always an excuse for why that happened. And it always seemed that the reason for these incompletions was due to something that was out of their control.

If that was the case, one might wonder why they didn’t stop working on a fruitless or endless task and try to gain control. Or better yet, get the situation corrected. In the meantime, they could work on something else, a much better use of their time.

On the other hand, I marveled at how certain individuals could get things done with seeming ease. They didn’t spend inordinate hours to do so. In fact if I or someone else needed a hand with an issue they would drop what they were doing to help. There was no complaint that they couldn’t because they were “too busy”. Once the help was provided, they got back to their original work, without missing a beat.

What was their secret?

It wasn’t much of a secret.

They knew what needed to be done and when it needed to be completed by. They set a plan and followed it.

When a problem arose, they addressed it and moved on.

They were not distracted by scope creep or dealing with trivial things.

They were focused on successfully getting the job done and they did so, repeatedly.

As the head of Project Engineering at Crayola, I was responsible for adding new or replacing old equipment and tooling. I had many engineers who reported to me. Two were polar opposites of each other.

Joe was laid back and took everything in stride. He was always calm and cool and got things done on time. He never gave me a complaint or an excuse for not getting things done. I could always depend on Joe.

Ron on the other hand was a mess. He needed constant attention and a reminder of dates and deliverables. These came up  at his quarterly reviews. He told me how much time he was putting in. I told him that I wasn’t impressed by the amount of time put in, but by the results achieved. Some things do take more time than others, but not everything should be such a big deal. He did get things done, but I spent more time with him than  Joe or any of my other reports. He didn’t realize what is really important – the end result is.

An example of process versus results always sticks in my mind. One of our operations at Crayola involved the manufacture of color pigments. These were used in our crayon and paint operations. The facility to produce these was “The Color Mill”.

The operation involved mixing the various components into a slurry. Once the requisite mixing time was completed, the slurry was run through a filtering process. In this way we got rid of unwanted particulates and squeezed extra moisture.

When this was completed the material (press cake) was dried in a kiln. When sufficiently dried, it was then combined with other materials. We then had the proper color. It was then pulverized to get the required particle sizes which were then used in crayons, paints, etc.

The problem was the filtering / pressing operation. It was somewhat slow. More importantly, there were only two pieces of this equipment. There were three mixing units. So when operating all three, one had to wait until a filter press was available. Then, the  material could be moved to the next operation. By adding another press, we would be able to significantly improve output.

Although the current equipment was slow, it was reliable. I set out to buy another press and get the needed improvement. At that point, a good friend, Phil, who headed up the process part of Research and Development approached me. He wanted to try a different filter press.  He felt it was less costly and more efficient to operate than the current equipment.

I agreed to let him buy a lab scale model to conduct his testing and evaluation. The Color Mill manager, Charlie, was not happy. But I convinced him that by waiting he may have a superior piece of equipment. He reluctantly agreed.

The evaluation was supposed to take two to three months to complete. At month two, I contacted Phil to see how things were going. He told me there was a delay and it would take four months to complete his study. I agreed to the delay.

At month four, the work was still not completed. Phil told me he was close and needed a little more time. Charlie was getting mad. He wanted the new equipment now.

Finally at month five, Phil told me that the new equipment didn’t perform as expected. Actually, he said, “As hoped for”. If I had known hope was a factor I would never have agreed to this in the first place. He then hit me with that he found another piece of equipment that he was sure would work. He had “learned a lot” from this experiment that he would now use in experiment number two. At that point I put my foot down and said, “No”. I told him that I would buy the tried and true equipment and install it, now.

If Phil wanted to he could experiment with this new find. If it was so wonderful, he could then make the case to replace all three filter presses as a cost improvement. Phil was not happy. He wanted to experiment more. To him the process was important and not the result. Coming to a successful result was secondary to learning more about the process. He didn’t realize what was really important – the end result is.

Charlie on the other hand,  was very happy, except for the fact that he had to wait six months to get what he needed. From this experience, I learned a very valuable lesson.

If all that you focus on is the “how-to” process then you are doing nothing but setting yourself and your organization up for failure.

If you are not able to focus on the end result of any process, you are wasting your time and the time of your team.

By focusing on the end result, you will be setting a solid example for your team members to follow as well. They will see that you are focused on results. That is what business is all about, results.

Vince Lombardi, the late great coach of the Green Bay Packers and Washington Redskins once said. “Some of us will do our jobs well and some will not, but we will be judged by only one thing – the result.”

That is what I have experienced and believe.  Ultimately, “What is really important  is the end result”.

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