The Missing P

I just realized we have been missing a “P”.

For years we have referred to the three key organizational elements at our school as the Three P’s: people, program, and place.  I imagine many others see their school in these same terms, as well as folks in other organizations.  They reflect the main characteristics of any organization: who we are, what we do and how we do it, and where we do it.

I am developing an active learning exercise for a conference of school business officers in the fall, and in doing so realized that we have been missing a critical P.  The three P’s provide a three dimensional view, but we live in a four dimensional world.  The fourth dimension is time, which means that the 4th P is process.  Process is the difference between being good and being sustainably good.  Process is the difference between succeeding, and leveraging success over time.

I am kicking myself for not identifying this earlier; it has always been there but once we grabbed on to the “Three P” tag, we did not go back and question our assumptions; it sounded good and served our purposes of creating buckets for strategic thinking.

Process is by far the hardest of the P’s to get right.  You can hire good people; you can create good program; you can buy, lease, or build good places.  But all of those are snapshot events, and if you are not good at process, the people will leave or become ineffective, the program will stagnate relative to the market of competitors, and the place will grow old and outdated.  Process is the hardest because it is not a one-time event; it is not something you can check off the to-do list; it is often hard to measure objectively.  Nevertheless, organizations that have good process will succeed over time, because process is the link between today and tomorrow.

What do we mean by process?  Look back over many of my posts of the last three months, and the links to others who are talking about innovation.  Innovation is the process that develops value in an organization over time, and without that, even good schools are only good in the here and now. Schools tend to be slow to adopt new processes because we have been generally effective at what we do, and because we always have something burning hotter to deal with.  But the world is changing and does not allow for the existing processes; they are too slow, too rigid, and too deeply entrenched in a reality that is rapidly fading.  It is up to leaders to quickly get the 4th P up to the front in our organizational consciousness.


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