Blog of Rob Galanakis (@robgalanakis)

Results are not the point?

The phrase “results are not the point” often confuses people new to Lean thinking. It confused the shit out of me, not having really understood it even after my first few books. This is a shame, because it’s such a simple thing.

On Friday night, Danny got really drunk, coded a game, and the game was a hit. Danny did this again the following Friday, with the same results. And once more that third Friday.
Jess codes on sober Saturday nights instead (still drinks on Friday). Jess programs a game, and it runs poorly, crashes often, and isn’t fun. The following Saturday, Jess makes a new game, which runs fast but still isn’t fun and crashes often. That third Saturday, Jess creates a new well-performing, fun game, though it still crashes.
Would you bet on the long-term success of Danny or Jess?

Clearly, the better bet here is Jess. Jess has discovered a process which can be continuously improved. There is good reason to believe Jess will eventually create reliable success. The fact that Danny has been successful three times is basically irrelevant, since Danny’s process is totally haphazard.

This is the idea behind results are not the point. Focusing on the results, and not how those results were achieved, doesn’t improve anything in the long term. The point is to create a repeatable, empirical, continuously improving process. If we can create a reliable, successful process (which here includes culture and practices), we can get reliable, successful results.

9 thoughts on “Results are not the point?

  1. Dmitry says:

    Thank you, Rob. Another excellent post.

    I can compare this explanation to explanation of the phrase “Good artists copy, great artists steal” in terms of being simple but yet not that obvious and misinterpreted a lot. I have seen number of explanations, but they don’t reveal the idea as far as I can see it:

    – if you just copy, original author is still known and has a credit for what he has done before you
    – when you steal, original author is completely forgotten and you have all the credits on your own

    MS did have smartphones with touch screen and tons of apps years before first iPhone arrivied. But who cares about it now?.. That what the real stealing is.

  2. Robert Kist says:

    seems the phrase is just strangely worded. Overall results do count as you will have a hard time running a company that doesn’t eventually deliver. But with a process that can be improved, based on previous results, it is just more likely that your company will eventually deliver, vs. a shop that leaves things to pure chance. It’s basically what the CMM too tells you you should do

  3. Sinisa says:

    The reality of course is that any publisher would likely buy Danny out, keep milking him until he dries out at which point they’ll dump him for an already worked in Jess who is at this point producing reliable success consistently. They will naturally repeat the whole process with Jess if he ever happens to burn out himself and produce anything less than a complete success.
    And that there is the result of their continuously improving money making process.

    1. Well, I never thought of it that way, but you have quite a point! One of the tenets of Lean/Toyota Way is “respect for people”, but if you take that out, then yeah- you’re spot on! :)

  4. Charles Palmer says:

    Saw this and thought of the article.

    Just taking results at face value would lead to an incorrect conclusion.

    1. Interesting article, and a great blog! Subscribed. Thanks Charles!

  5. Mathew says:

    Spot on with this write-up, I absolutely think this
    site needs far more attention. I’ll probably be back again to see more, thanks for the information!

  6. Ren² Gabás says:

    Both approaches have their own place. It’s easy to see why Toyota/Lean works well with manufacturing and operations. Continuous service and operations needs continual improvements. However, there are times when you need to forget all about process and workflow in order to break new ground. I would place breakthroughs in research and product development right in the Danny category.

  7. […] response to a previous post explaining the phrase “Results are not the point“, commenter RenRen Gabás […]

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