Why People, Process and Product are Not Enough

In Purpose, Mission & Values

On CNBC’s primetime reality series The Profit, Chairman and CEO of Camping World Marcus Lemonis saves struggling businesses while investing his own cash in the process. Viewers observe his personal mantra in action: “Business success is about the three P’s: People, Process and Product.”

The idea being that if you hire the right people, they’ll build the right product and implement the best processes. Each of these tenets being a leg in the proverbial three-legged stool. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable show to watch and while a little formulaic and predictable at times, it gives us an insight into the daily challenges small businesses face. At first glance, these three tenets seem to be the perfect balance for a company. In quality management systems like Six Sigma, Process, product and people are the three key elements of a company’s quality system and all of them need to be focused on for an overall improvement in performance. Yet, pursuing these three elements alone ignores the most important “P” of them all. A “P” upon which all other “P’s” derive their direction. We’re talking of course about Purpose.

Marcus, of course, is filming a reality show, and small mundane details like purpose do not often a good TV show make, yet it’s negligent to overlook this foundational element. You can’t focus on selling more “whats” to more “whos” if you don’t know the “why”. People, product, and process are merely the “hows” and the “whats” and they’re nothing without their north star.

What’s the impact of avoiding or ignoring the articulation of purpose? If Apple had just focused on product, they’d still be a tiny computer company. If LIFE magazine had focused on sharing the 20th Century’s most important stories through compelling visuals instead of focusing on magazine publishing, they might still be around.

The point being, it’s impossible to know what product to pursue if we don’t know why we’re pursuing it. Clarity of purpose creates unbridled innovation; innovation free from the constraints of a product-driven organization.

What core strengths do we need our executive leadership team to have? Our directors, our staff? While it might be easy to find someone who has years of experience in manufacturing to oversee this area, are we recruiting those who can see beyond the product? Those who can help us disrupt ourselves by thinking about our purpose, not our products? Could Blockbuster Video have used such luminaries in their leadership team? They discovered the cost of being in the video business, not the entertainment business.

There’s always a bigger raison d’être but many companies have no room for a fourth “P” when they’re consumed by the three others.

By all means enjoy The Proft on CNBC, but don’t forget to think about what’s not being discussed. It’s the difference between a good company and a great business.

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Barry-028 2Barry Chandler is the co-founder of Storyforge, a brand strategy company focused on helping companies discover their purpose to allow them achieve their vision, build preference and drive margin. Barry has been building award-winning businesses since launching his first company in Ireland in 2003. His last company, a digital marketing agency, was acquired in 2012 by a California-based publicly traded entertainment company which then hired him as Chief Marketing Officer. It is his belief that the greatest brands seek to change the world, improving the lives of their associates, partners and customers.