Process for Process Sake



One of my teammates has a way with words.  Her words flow when she’s in mode.   By “in mode”, I mean those wonderful times when the heart and mind are aligned, and, the little voice inside speaks up and says big ideas in a precise and elegant, or insightful way.

Sometimes it’s like Dr. Seuss, and other times, it’s more like Hemmingway.  Either way, it makes my day.  Here is an example:

“Process for process sake is not good for goodness sake.” — Lynn A. Edmark

As you know, I’m a fan of one-liners that stick, and this one’s got Velcro.  This quotable quote is especially sticky for me, because I’ve seen bad process happen to good people.  It’s true … too much of a good thing, really is a bad thing.  In fact, one of my mentors poses a  riddle along these lines …

“How much process should there be?”

… and his answer always is …

“Just enough.”

I agree.   While I’m a fan of process, and I bring process to people, it’s all with one main goal in mind:

Empower people.

That trumps all.  For me, I use process to help people move up the stack, build better habits, and break through limiting ones.  I could go on about the ups and downs of process, but suffice it to say, that when the pendulum swings too far, the trick is not just to swing it back, but to find the balance.

How do you find the balance?   Through a simple guiding question:

“Is it effective?”

Yeah, that might sound simple, but you’d be surprised just how often and just how much, that question cuts through the fog to get to what counts.

Photo by mpeterke.


  1. JD,
    Love just enough process.
    In some cases folks take “just enough” to extreme bringing chaos and anarchy in other cases they take “process” to extreme bringing rigidness and inability to adapt to changes.

    That’s why I love guidelines and guiding principles or themes. They timeless and sticky so when the process go off track it’s easy to get back or change it based on the guidelines, principles, or themes.

  2. @ Alik — I know what you mean. I’m a fan of guiding principles.

    One of the best books I read early on was Covey’s Principle-Centered Leadership. It really helped me appreciate the difference between setting a bunch of rules vs. driving with principles and having a North Star.

  3. Hi JD,
    This article reminds me of two things: 1. Working hard in the wrong way and 2. Busy doing nothing. When you don’t have a specific plan of action, you can get caught in both of these traps. If you aren’t sure what you are doing is effective, it is better to stop doing it, ask yourself that simple question (is it effective) and then decide whether or not you will continue. A lot of time and energy can be saved that way.

  4. What a quotable teammate! =) I love the insights you scrounged up from her thoughts. It’s such an important reminder that what we aim for is balance, not too much of one thing or another. I’m a person of extremes, so this is something I need to be constantly reminded of! Thanks for the tips! =)

  5. @ Lisa — “Busy doing nothing” is the perfect phrase.

    I’ve always liked how Tony Robbins would say, “Stay committed to your goal, but stay flexible in your approach.” This invites ingenuity in achieving great outcomes, without getting locked into an approach that’s not working.

    @ Samantha — The beauty of being an extremist is that it helps you to learn what the other side looks like.

    I think the key is to balance even balance itself. Sometimes great change, calls for extreme or massive action.

  6. What a refreshing insight, JD. Indeed, our most effective actions are spontaneous activities triggered automatically by our creative side – that part of us unaffected by our thinking “process” mind. When the mind is not there to struggle with circumstances or force things to happen, we step over the line from mind. It’s as if we have a magic wand in our hand, magically causing changes to occur by responding to the moment in a dynamic fashion. We are free from the hesitation and procrastination that comes from over thinking the process. This is what I refer to as Atomic Action.

  7. Hi JD .. we really just need “to do” to move forward with our basic structure and end goal ready to follow through .. but without all the coffee and cakes on the way.

    Process isn’t always necessary getting the job done is – as we move along each day.

    Cheers – Hilary

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