The Importance of Process

I recently started reading again one of my favorite books, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values by Robert M. Pirsig.  One of my favorite lines in the book is found near the beginning: “We want to make good time, but for us now this is measured with the emphasis on ‘good’ rather than ‘time’ and when you make that shift in emphasis the whole approach changes.”I have pondered the application of this sentence many times and in many situations in the years since I was first introduced to this book.  Reading it again this week made me think of its application to the planning process, particularly the business succession planning process.  So often we want to make good time in completing the plan with the emphasis on “getting it done!”  But, to truly find success in transitioning the ownership your business we can’t just check the box, it is important to re-orient our thinking and value the process itself.  Rushing through any one component may mean the loss of valuable insights.An example of the importance of process is how we often begin.  After assembling at least the beginnings of a great team, we begin the process of succession planning by trying to answer two key questions:1. What are your goals and objectives?2. What are your resources?If we try and bypass the labor and the thought required to answer either of these two questions, we place the plan in significant peril from the outset.  If a plan is created to transition your business to a third party, when your objective was to transfer ownership to a child, the plan will fail.  If we set in motion a plan to sell your business for $1 million, when a more careful analysis of your resources would have led to an understanding of a need for more to fund retirement, the plan will fail.As with any process, patience is important.  Sometimes it can be clunky and difficult.  The plan may look one way at the outset, but significantly evolve over time.  If we are more concerned with the process, more concerned with emphasizing the “good” part, opportunities will emerge that may not have been visible from the starting line.