Saban’s “Process Focus”

We are only a few weeks into the college football season and the University of Alabama Crimson Tide has fans shaking their heads with awe.

While they are the defending National Champs, many of the pundits thought they would be good but not great this year. The Tide lost many players to the NFL this year and their lineup at the beginning of the year was untested and inexperienced.

Nevertheless, the Tide has rolled up three pretty impressive victories, two of which were over teams that most thought would be a real test.

Success like that causes folks to wonder about what kind of leadership gets that done. The Tide coach Nick Saban’s reputation grows weekly and annually because of his stellar results, not only at Alabama but at other schools like Michigan State and LSU. Further, his reputation grows annually as coaches leave his coaching staff to land head coaching jobs at other schools and are building quality programs.

A writer named Jason Selk offered up some observations about Saban’s approach that would help any leader. Especially those of us trying to interject “lean” into the operations we impact.

Selk says that what makes Saban successful is his daily preaching of “process focus” to his team.

According to Selk, a coach who uses a “process focus” doesn’t focus on winning and losing. Instead, he encourages coaches to work with players to define success by effort. Units of the team and individuals on the team work to define “processes” which cause them to execute their jobs better. Once the definitions are solid, the work goes into the execution. In Saban’s world, a process which is continually refined and is executed consistently well will get good results. Good results will result in victories.

That’s lean. Improve in the weight room by adding techniques which make you strong then execute the routine by showing up every day.

Cut down on fumbles by carrying the ball in a way that minimizes the risk of fumbling. Learn the best process. Do it that way every time.

The same ideas work for us in manufacturing, working in the office, conducting a sales call. Think about the process we use. Make it as good as it can be. Execute it 100% of the time. That’s process focus.

Saban knows many are copying what they do. He isn’t threatened. “Everybody wants to be a success. Not everyone is willing to do what it takes to be a success.”