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Process vs. outcome: What should you focus on?

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Process v outcomeA few of my colleagues and I attended a young professionals event earlier this week that focused on work/life balance. There were many lessons to be learned, but the one that stuck out most was the idea that it is more important to focus on process rather than outcome or the end. Why you might ask? Because if we focus too much on the outcome, we might not even begin in the first place, and quite frankly, outcomes can be out of our control.

I’m not saying that we have no say in what outcomes are 100 percent of the time or that we shouldn’t think about the big picture. If we said we didn’t focus on outcome in public relations, we would be lying! But there is a different way to look at outcome and to reframe our way of thinking.

The example used in the presentation was writing a book. At first, the author may be thinking, “There is no way I can put 60,000 words together and create something that people will want to read. This is going to take me forever. How will I know if the book will be successful?” The fear of the outcome (in this case a successful book) may hinder the author from even beginning the process.

If the author thinks about the task in a different perspective, he or she will realize that books are made up of interesting ideas put together into engaging sentences. If the author spends time each day focusing on those ideas and putting them into beautiful sentences, the book will write itself without the author even thinking of the time that went into it.

Often times we are so focused on what it will take to complete something that we fail to even begin. The next time your company is faced with a large project – whether it be a communications plan, a crisis or a new product launch – welcome the challenge head on and focus on each step along the way. Take time to look at the project holistically, but place the majority of your focus on each step as you take it. At the end if the outcome isn’t what you desire, revisit your process for the next time.

Chances are if you focus on your process, your outcome will work itself out. If it doesn’t, use it as a learning tool.

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