The more I come to understand the idea of scientific thinking the more I see it hidden inside other sound systems including Nick Saban’s famous “Process” that’s lead to him building one of college football’s great programs at Alabama.
During an interview Saban explained the moment his famous “Process” was born while he was coaching at Michigan State. Unfortunately, for Ohio State Buckeye fans like me it’s a game many of us would like to forget since Saban’s rag tag 4 win / 5 loss Michigan State Spartans rolled into Columbus to take on the undefeated, #1 ranked, Buckeyes. Saban knew his team wasn’t as gifted so he challenged them in a different way.
We decided to use the approach that we’re not going to focus on the outcome,” Saban said. “We were just going to focus on the process of what it took to play the best football you could play, which was to focus on that particular play as if it had a history and life of its own.
Don’t look at the scoreboard, don’t look at any external factors, just all your focus and all your concentration, all your effort, all your toughness, all your discipline to execute went into that particular play. Regardless of what happened on that play, success or failure, you would move on to the next play and have the same focus to do that on the next play, and you’d then do that for 60 minutes in a game and then you’d be able to live with the results regardless of what those results were.”
As sports fans likely know, Michigan State pulled off the stunning upset (ugh, I still remember the pain!) and Saban’s “Process” was born.
Now, the thing I love most about this “Process” is the fact that they no longer focus on the outcome of a game or a play or anything they are involved in. Instead, they’re laser focused on the process of playing the game or running the play or, again, whatever it is they’re working on.
As it turns out, Saban’s process is very similar to what we lean thinkers refer to as Scientific Thinking. Done correctly, we set a long term challenge. We then assess where we currently are.
Once this current state is deeply understood we set a short term target condition that we believe can be achieved in a few weeks. We then identify any obstacle standing between us and this target condition before choosing one obstacle to attack. We then focus (like Saban and his team) all our concentration, all our effort, all our toughness, all our discipline into overcoming this single obstacle.
In other words, like Saban and his Process, we aren’t obsessed about the long term challenge… instead, we’re only focused on that single obstacle standing between us and our short term target condition. And this, my friends, is when the power of continuous improvement truly unlocks itself.