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PHIL HARDWICK — Why process matters

PHIL HARDWICK

Process is defined as “a series of actions or operations conducing to an end,” according to Merriam-Webster.

Goal is defined as “the end toward which effort is directed.”

The situation with the hiring of a new chancellor at Ole Miss is a good example of why the process can be as important as the goal. The goal was clear: Hire a new chancellor for Ole Miss. The process was … well … not so great.

Former trial lawyer Dickie Scruggs probably said it best when he tweeted, “Although the selection process was ill-conceived and the rollout botched, Glenn Boyce is a capable, respected and experienced educator—not the ‘good ole boy’ that my relative called him. I’m betting that the ‘good ole boys’ are soon gonna be disappointed.”

Putting the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL) situation aside for a moment, it may be useful to review process in more detail. We will do so from a leadership perspective.

Some leaders are process-oriented; some are project-oriented. In other words, in the extreme, some leaders and managers view the achievement of the goal more important than making certain that the followers or those affected are considered. In extreme cases, those affected, such as employees, are expendable if necessary to achieve the goal. Layoffs may occur, drastic cost cuts may be necessary, or time may not allow for listening to other opinions and ideas.

Leaders know that the appropriate process is one of the best ways to get people on board to any new person or project. Leaders who announce a decision rather than involve those who must live with the outcome face the prospect that followers will not support the outcome even though it may be in their best interests. The message received by those affected is that they cannot be trusted, or worse yet, disrespected.

Process matters more in the public world than the private one. Imagine a government agency adopting a rule or new law without getting public input first. Or announcing a series of listening sessions or public forums, and in the middle of the forums going ahead and adopting the new law without explanation. Not only does such an action indicate rudeness, it deprives the agency from gathering all possible data or information about the issue at hand.

Announcing a goal or a change without consulting with those affected can backfire. Consider the NBA basketball case. The official game ball has been around for a long time. It’s made by Spaulding. In 2006, the NBA introduced a new basketball. Instead of leather, it was a microfiber composite. Less expensive to manufacture than leather balls, they were supposed to feel already broken in. College teams had already adopted the synthetic ball and the ball had been used in the lower leagues of the NBA. On June 28 of that year, executives announced the New Ball, as it was called. NBA players were shipped one. They hated it. The NBA announced on ESPN that it was going back to the leather ball without even notifying Spaulding.

In December, the NBA Players Association filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, saying that they were not properly consulted before the ball was mandated. It was a good lesson in making certain those affected were consulted in advance.

By the way, the current Spaulding website states:

“Spalding has joined forces with the league to create the gold standard basketball. This ball is designed to feel like second nature in the hands of the legends who wield it. Strictly made for the hardwood, it has a full grain (sic) leather construction that turns butter-soft once broken in.”

Even though the outcome may actually be in the best interests of all concerned, failing to go ahead with an announced process by announcing an outcome can make those who participated in the process fee disrespected. Indeed, it can be interpreted as mistrust. That means the future processes will be suspect and can lead to a lack of participation.

Meanwhile, back to the IHL selection case, I believe that Public Service Commissioner Cecil Brown summed it up best in one of his tweets:

“Glenn Boyce is a good man and is my friend. But this not about Glenn. Circumventing the process was a breach of trust by the board. The university should not be a political football. It belongs to all Mississippians, not to a few washed up politicians.”

Here’s hoping it works out best for all concerned.  Process matters.

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» PHIL HARDWICK is a regular Mississippi Business Journal columnist. His email address is phil@hilhardwick.com.

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