What I Learned About Process from an IKEA Hack

It can happen to the best of us: we are drawn in by the aroma of freshly baked cinnamon rolls. The idea of inexpensive, yet stylish furniture, calls us to begin walking the mammoth floor plan. The ultra-efficient sample living areas cause us to think we are wasting significant space in our current setup. And a Google search quickly shows us the infinite possibilities that lie in front of us.

This is the experience that many of us have had at IKEA.

At least, that’s the experience my wife and I had three weeks ago.

We have been attempting to find toy storage for our toddler’s toys. The challenge has been finding something durable, functional, affordable, and within our preferred style. Many things have come on our radar, but nothing has completely fit the bill.

That is, of course, until we found the solid wood toy storage solutions at IKEA.

And because I’ve refinished a few pieces of furniture, that meant I had the opportunity to turn untreated pine into something Joanna Gaines may feature in an episode of Fixer Upper.

before

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after

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with toys

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We bought the furniture, took it home, and I began assembling it. Once assembled, I began the process of prepping the wood, staining it, and putting on the clear coat. With drying time in between coats, it took about 3 days.

It turned out better than I expected. But what I didn’t expect?

To be reminded of the importance of process.

When it comes to refinishing furniture, there is a pretty clear process in place. You have to prep the surface, paint or stain it (possibly multiple times), and then put on layers of clear coat. That’s a simple way to explain a multi-day process.

If the process were just that easy, then everyone would be a master furniture refinisher on their first try. But anyone who has done this knows that it takes more than one time to get it right.

In fact, it takes several projects to begin getting a good idea of the process. And then it takes several more times in the process before you feel comfortable in the process.

This same reality is true in leadership. Leaders should be passionate about creating and leading processes. These allow everyone to stay on track and focused by providing clear parameters for creativity. But what many of us get wrong about process is that it takes time to master it.

As we work the process, we get a better understanding of how to do it well. We get a better sense of the timing of the steps, and we begin discovering the nuances within it. The more we work the process, the better we get at it. And the better we are able to communicate it to others.

The difference between an amateur and a professional is understanding the timing and nuances found in the process. An amateur simply checks off the boxes, but a professional deeply engages in each step, ensuring it is done carefully and thoroughly. In the end, the professional produces a far superior product.

The difference is not found in the product. It’s found in the process. Take time to understand your processes. Work through them. Tweak them. Dive deeply into them. And watch your leadership begin to separate from those who simply check off the boxes.

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