In 2013, then-Philadelphia 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie had a plan. Before Hinkie came on board, the team was mired in losing—not just in the standings, but losing as a corrosive element that ran through the entire organization. 

“The Process” was Hinkie’s plan to bring the Sixers back to relevance, as summarized here in this Sports Illustrated excerpt: 

“The Process itself is Hinkie’s plan to find the best way to acquire top talent for the team by getting as many assets—draft picks, young players, players with trade- and team-friendly contracts—as possible, and using them in a way to bring in a superstar player.”1 

But today, things are different. Hinkie is long gone, players he brought in came and went. The Sixers—while still competitive—never saw “The Process” reach fruition in the form of a championship-caliber NBA dynasty in the making. 

Here’s the point. “The Process” failed eventually because at the end of the day, Hinkie’s plan was built on paper, where everything works in its ideal state. When a process is put into practice, it’s only as good as the work product it generates. In other words, no “process” is a failsafe against complexity and chaos.  

People in organizations may follow along with “process” for a while to make things run smoothly, but process doesn’t account for individuality, change, pushback, etc. “The Process” (like overblown mission statements or company values) was just a collection of words—it didn’t engender trust when things went wrong. Moreover, it takes very courageous people to speak up and stop the process when it has ceased to become valuable. 

In fact, many times, process is a crutch for progress; too much time and energy is spent arriving at a precisely tailored set of values than getting results. When organized process meets a roadblock, you may have to abandon rigid adherence to structure and work with a more flexible mindset.  

The pandemic changed a lot about our usual creative process. We’ve all been separated from each other, with meaning and intent lost behind the veneer of the Zoom screen. Our team has to trust each other to be able to create on an island, as it were.  

We have to trust that the impromptu one-on-one brainstorms that used to inspire us can give way to a new way to create. We go our own ways with the last status meeting in our brain and try to coalesce all points of view into one cohesive vision. 

On the other end of the spectrum, our clients trust us to see a common vision through to the end product. If there’s no trust from one end or another, things fall apart. Intentions are inferred and wires get crossed.  

What happens then? The end product gets watered down because the idea that ruffles the least feathers will emerge. This doesn’t help anyone, but allows them to see a finished product as a reason to stay distrustful: “Hey, we got it done. That’s what counts.” 

Of course that’s not what counts! Trust has been stretched, and that means a subpar project has gone out the door. No risks were taken. No one objected to going with the safe choice. Everyone repeats the cycle.  

Let’s break that cycle. We want the opportunity to use every talent and skill we possess to put out remarkable work. It doesn’t have to change the world, but it must be built somewhere.  

And when we do that more often and make it a habit, THAT is where real trust lies. By showing and not telling. By challenging ourselves. By knowing that trust itself is, in fact, the process. 

  

1) https://www.si.com/nba/2018/05/02/trust-the-process-meaning-philadelphia-76ers-team-motto 

  

  

“People in organizations may follow along with “process” for a while to make things run smoothly, but process doesn’t account for individuality, change, pushback, etc. ”