Process this

February 7, 2012

Every Christmas my mother-in-law treats all her grandchildren to a trip to the local bookstore to buy a book of their choice. While I am not part of the generation that gets a free book, I like to tag along and treat myself to a book outside of my normal range of interests.

Two years ago I bought HBR’s 10 Must Reads: The Essentials,” which is an introduction to the most enduring ideas on management from Harvard Business Review and read an article in it that really enhanced the way I look at my role as adviser to the student newspaper.

The article “Meeting the Challenge of Disruptive Change” talks about how you can predict how businesses will survive to change. The process of balancing three key components is what caught my attention.

Values, resources and processesIn essence, the article says that successful businesses are those who position themselves to balance values/goals, resources and processes.

I guess in my years of advising student publications I always did this intuitively, but the article brought more focus to it. Today I give a 10-minute lecture on this balance to my newspaper students multiple times a semester. It is a more formal aspect of what I teach and what we do.

With values and goals you define what it is that you are trying to do and what is important to you. For instance, we want to cover the news of the college campus and put together a product that not only is of value to the campus audience, but trains students in the skill sets of producing the product. Our product consists of a print newspaper, an online newspaper, a digital version of our print publication, and multimedia (including a weekly news radio show). I am training reporters, photographers, designers and multimedia producers.

To accomplish this we need to look at what resources we have, from the personnel to put these publications together, to the finances that support them, to the hardware and software tools needed, to the time students can allocate to this class.

But it is the processes that are interesting. The processes take into account the ever-evolving values and the strengths and weaknesses of the ever-changing resources. How do you accomplish what you want to do? For instance, what is the process by which students submit assignments? Do your processes emphasize the print edition or online first? You say you want multimedia? What processes do you have to encourage that? For instance, I am quite adept at critiquing print media, but I have to learn new ways to critique multimedia. I have to devote time (a resource) to that.

I inculcate editors with the concept of looking at their processes. If something is not working, and you still value it, examine the process and tweak it. What worked before is not working now. Stop expecting different results if you don’t alter the underlying process.

The concept works in other parts of one’s life, too. For instance, I love my wife and want her to know (value), so I purchase flowers (use of resource) and surprise her with them (process).

Processes are where it is at, baby. It’s fascinating.


  1. Values before processes Rich. Without the values that drive journalists, the processes don’t matter. Nice stuff.

  2. […] I am thinking of including the SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis and goal-setting components of the other process –why completely re-invent the wheel?– but adding the values, resources and processes analysis that I have written about before. […]

  3. […] still have two weeks to start transformation to new ideas and processes. Here are some ideas that I am trying to push with Talon Marks newspaper students here at the end […]

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