Process & Outcomes

Sometimes, the process matters more than the individual outcomes. For example, it is more important for the criminal justice system to be fair and impartial than it is to always punish the guilty. (You might disagree with that. You’re wrong.)

Sometimes, people create processes because they’re trying to improve outcomes. Sometimes, people create processes for… other reasons. And sometimes there’s reasonable disagreement!

The key is this: if you’re trying to get to a specific outcome, and one (or more) of the processes you have to follow is hindering you instead of helping you, it’s reasonable to question the process. It might be reasonable to eliminate it.

But don’t expect the process people to help you.

No matter what, the process people believe in the process above all else. Some processes are important, like fairness in the criminal justice system. Other processes are needless bureaucracy, like which color pen you have to use on forms at the DMV. But to the people behind the process, they’re all vital. Process people believe that their process trumps individual outcomes, whether they’re right or not.

This means, quite simply: you cannot appeal to them in the language of outcomes.

If there is a person who is clearly guilty of murder, but the court has been unable to prove it, you’ll never get a judge to agree with you by saying “I know we didn’t prove it, but come on, we all know he’s guilty. Can’t we just throw him in jail anyway?” That’s outcomes-based language, and process people dismiss it. But you might be able to convince a judge that some part of the process wasn’t adequately fulfilled, and therefore a mistrial should be declared and a new trial should begin – all to serve the proper process, of course.

If you’re an outcomes person, remember that every process person you talk to thinks they’re a judge in a murder trial. So if you want to get anywhere with them, you have to speak that language.

That’s just the process, I’m afraid.

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