Process vs. Preparation: Which is Better?


This has been an extra special week. I’ve had the opportunity to interview and survey almostprocess-vs-preparation 100 different business leaders about their perspectives on business acumen and business leadership as we start building their digital business simulations that will be part of their fall 2022 virtual and in-person training initiatives.

As so often is the case, we engage in deep dialogues about the topics of the day and the skills needed by today’s leaders to execute strategy. One of the questions that I asked in the interview is, “Which is better, to have great processes in your organization or a culture of great preparation?”

The answers were interesting and worthy of a little thought-provoking blog.

The case for and against process

In the post-pandemic business world, most businesses are struggling to figure out how to make a hybrid world work. Going into the third year, it is obvious that the “back to the office to work” idea has plateaued at about 40% occupancy. As of today, the New York Times is reporting that going back full-time is never going to happen. That means every business is looking to improve their processes because they recognize businesses perform better when their processes are aligned with their overall and specific objectives.

In the opinions of the leaders I interviewed this week, they felt strongly that having the right processes not only helps to reduce waste and inefficiencies before they become crises, but the right processes also help produce consistent results and helps to scale the business and make it more profitable.

“The bad thing about the process is that too much process strangles ingenuity, creativity, innovation, and customer focus. I see it every day when my people complain they spend 50% of their time filling out forms and following rules that add no value to the customer’s experience.

The case for and against preparation

Aggressive preparation is not always fun, and many people simply don’t do it. It can often appear to be boring and uninteresting – particularly to those who love spontaneity and fighting fires so they can look like a hero. However, great preparation skills can prove to be one of the most valuable things that you can master if you want to execute strategy and achieve your goals and objectives.

“Let’s face it, a large part of your working day probably entails dealing with, and managing, problems and fires as they arise – a significant proportion of which most likely come from never being prepared or thinking things through,” shared a leader who was very passionate about this topic. He further added, “You can give me all of the [standard operating procedure] SOPs in the world and talk process until you are blue in the face, but I will take a well-prepared person over a robot who lives by process any day of the week.

The problem is that while great preparation can overcome many things, if there aren’t basic processes to prepare around, then there will still be failures and fires.

It was a tremendously entertaining dialogue that polarized the group. They listened to each other, and it felt like they understood the other’s perspectives. Interestingly enough, and to my surprise, there was no compromise. I surely felt that I was going to be writing a blog that concluded with something about great managers are able to do both, have strong processes, and a culture of preparation. I personally lean toward having foundation processes (a 3 out of 10), and a much stronger culture around better preparation and attention to detail (a 7 out of 10).

I think this will make a great scenario for a leadership simulation and it would be great to hear from you! Leave me a comment and I will include your feedback in the work! Thanks in advance.

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Robert Brodo

About The Author

Robert Brodo is co-founder of Advantexe. He has more than 20 years of training and business simulation experience.