The yellow and grey tread of a tiny shoe waves at me, moved by a child sitting across from me at a local coffee shop. His (presumed) dad and sister are nearby at a table, but he and I apparently share the same appreciation for well-worn leather armchairs.
He can’t be more than 4 or 5 years old. He holds an iPad encased in thick, bright blue rubber intended to protect the device he clearly takes just about everywhere with him. Whatever is on the screen elicits smiles, jerks of his hands and little body, and activates more waves of the yellow tread foot.
After a brief glance up, he catches my eye and blushes. I say hello and offer a big smile. Mr. Yellow Tread smiles back, says hi and goes back to the screen.
“Are you playing a game?” I ask, trying to be friendly. “Yuh huh,” he says, with an exaggerated head nod that somehow involves every inch of his two and a half foot tall frame.
Then I ask the question I immediately regret, "Are you winning?"
It came so naturally. It just slipped out. I didn’t mean anything by it, yet here I was, making conversation with a child and inadvertently emphasizing what I work hard to intentionally de-emphasize with my clients: process is just as important as outcome.
In a culture that praises productivity and embraces efficiency at all costs as an acceptable approach to business success, time spent in the process of being successful is synonymous with lost time and money, and is to be avoided as often as is possible.
You and I both know that it is precisely in the midst of the process
that the good stuff really comes to life. Much learning happens
between the beginning and end of a thing.
New perspectives that seem forced and awkward initially, bring fresh insight. Dry spells reveal distractions and provide singularity of focus. Breakthroughs are reminders that problems indeed have solutions and are worth our effort to find. There is rich learning to be had during the process...and here I was, reflexively privileging the outcome again.
Mr. Yellow Tread is gone now, as I write these final lines. Another young guest has come to armchair land and taken up temporary residence.
“Look what I can do!” he says to me, balancing on the edge of the armrest recently vacated by Mr. Yellow Tread. His mom is in line to order some snacks, looking on with a smile. Mr. Armchair Acrobat is friendly and clearly up for a chat.
Determined NOT to make the same misstep again with my new friend, I try again.
“What are you doing?” I ask, offering another big smile. He flips over, belly up, doing a backbend over the armrest and replies, “this.”
“Cool,” I say. “Keep it up, little man.”
- How does your organization privilege outcome over process?
- What process are you in the middle of that you have labeled a waste of money and time? What learning exists in that very process that is being undervalued?