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The Dropped Ball Series: Seeing Process in the Dark

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This essay builds on a previous post about The Dropped Ball Thought Experiment.


More than a mile below the ocean’s surface, a squid searches for its next meal. No light penetrates to this depth but large, specially adapted eyes enable the squid to hunt in the deep. It scans the abyss, spots a glowing orb and decides to investigate.


The squid fixates on the light source as it approaches. Engrossed by the fluorescent appendage, it fails to spot the attached monstrosity. An anglerfish lunges from the dark and snaps the squid up in her powerful jaws.


Process Visibility


Like the fluorescent lure dangling in the dark, Outcomes are more visible to the naked eye than Process.


Outcomes occur at a fixed point in time. They are expressed via clearly defined, commonly used metrics. We know where to find them: a scoreboard, a quarterly earnings report, a market share analysis.


Process, by contrast, is fluid and ongoing. There is not a clearly defined moment to analyze for success and failure. Process requires constant review and adjustment.


The Dropped Ball Thought Experiment illustrates this contrast well. The Outcome Focused coach immediately fixates on the Outcome failure with little to no work. The Process Driven coach requires the aid of replay to comb through the moments preceding the drop. The Process Driven approach requires additional labor and resources (i.e. live game film, review software, a laptop, time, etc.).


Taking this lesson – the necessity of time and resource investment to observe, analyze, and improve Process – from the sports context to a workplace context is not straightforward. In the sports world, Process is documented on video. Most workplaces do not videotape their processes. Many processes are not physical – like the act of catching a ball – and are therefore impossible to catch on camera.


The workplace feels like an abyss as we try to observe Process in total darkness and under immense pressure. To follow the analogy, we must develop highly-specialized tools and skills like the creatures of the deep to survive and thrive in this environment.


Our metrics or KPIs are our eyes. If we only measure Outcomes, we will only be able to see the glowing Outcome lures. Process will elude us; lurking all around in the dark. Process metrics enable us to see the full picture. For example, an agreement-based sales model provides a data point at each progression in the sales process. Tracking those data points allows a sales team to pinpoint Process failures. Traditional Outcome metrics (sales dollars, phone calls, emails, etc.) blind the team to the roots of its sales problems.


In tomorrow’s Frustration: Resolved! Moment, Matthew Thomas will answer the question: How do we know we are measuring the right things? Matt will dive further into why we must choose KPIs wisely, challenges, and solutions.


Process review is a skillset in and of itself. It requires a concerted effort to develop and maintain. In the next Dropped Ball Series essay, we will breakdown the skills and tools necessary to see Process.


In the meantime, if you have struggled to see process in your own business, I would love to hear about it! If you would like to share your experience, please schedule a Get to Know You Session.



Joseph Rasmus

Joseph Rasmus is a Project Consultant with the L M Thomas Group.

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