Focus on the Process in a Results Driven World

College FootballOver the past decade Nick Saban and his Alabama Crimson Tide teams have dominated the college football scene, winning four national championships along the way. During that time, the way Alabama goes about their business has simply become known as "The Process". This is due to Saban's detail-oriented focus on doing everything the correct way. Rather than fixating on winning conference and national championships, Saban's teams focus on executing their practices correctly, knowing their individual assignments, and making the correct reads. On game days, the coaches and players speak of "playing to a standard" rather than playing against a particular opponent. They know that if they stick to the process, the desired results will follow much more often than not.

A Process for Every Phase

Recruiting is the lifeblood of college football. With each player only having four year of playing eligibility, a program must always be filling the pipeline with incoming talent to replace departing experienced players. To maximize the chance for success in the notoriously inexact science of recruiting high school players, Saban simply installed a process. For each position, Alabama's coaches have developed a profile of the type of player they want as far as height, weight, speed, body frame, etc. This minimizes the time the coaching staff must spend scouting the thousands of high school players across the country since they can identify the few that fit their profile and concentrate their efforts on players with a higher probability of success. Once the players are on campus, Saban turns them over to the strength, conditioning, and nutrition coaches to further process them into their ideal molds based on the program's experiences and knowledge base.

In practices, players often want to work on specific plays that may only be used once or twice during a season because they are fun and exciting. Saban instead focuses their effort on details that seem simple but are of paramount importance. For example, no matter what play is called, the entire offense needs to be lined up correctly and the center must get the ball to the quarterback before the play clock expires. Spending time working on the nuts and bolts fundamentals ensures that on game days, the chance of errors is minimized. Alabama's coaches realized that if their team is always better prepared to win than the opponent, then the results will largely take care of themselves.

Repeatable Processes Lead to Repeated Successes

In Alabama's football offices, prominently displayed are the national and conference championship trophies, but also large pictures of each player who was drafted into the NFL during Saban's tenure. Another key tenet of the Alabama process is understanding what is important to key stakeholders, namely current and prospective players. In modern college football, players want to get to the professional ranks as quickly as possible and want to play for college programs that will get them there. When recruits visit Alabama, they quickly understand that if getting drafted by an NFL team is the objective, playing college football for the Crimson Tide is a means to that end. As project managers, understanding the objectives of our stakeholder will allow us to tailor our processes to maximize the chance of success. Initial successes will yield data to develop repeatable processes, which in turn will yield repeated success.

Organizations are Results Driven so Project Managers Need to be Process Driven

College football is perhaps the ultimate results oriented business. Coaches are routinely fired for not winning enough games. Even if a coach has consistently won more games than not over a long tenure, a few losing seasons can quickly torpedo his career. Being process-oriented gives project managers the best chance to deliver results for stakeholders. Developing the right processes for projects and consistently executing those processes should give project managers the best opportunity to produce sustainable, successful results. Project managers focusing on the process will allow stakeholder to do what they inevitably will, and focus on the results.