Saturday, May 06, 2006

Process Driven vs. Profit Driven

Does it matter to an employee when writing whether the business is profit-driven or process-driven? At a writing class I recently presented for the New York State Metropolitan Transportation Authority, I was reinforcing the importance of establishing a results-focused purpose statement early in a document. At that point, one of the participants, Gregory Gengo, Procurement Manager for the Division of Materiel, Bus Maintenance and Support, New York City Transit, politely slipped me a hand-written note on a napkin which simply said, “process not profit driven.”

I immediately understood his point. Being profit-driven requires an attention to benefits related to cost decreases or revenue increases; being process-driven demands a mindset on policies and procedures that improve public safety and promote ethical conduct. In the case of the MTA, a virtual public transportation monopoly, such a mindset also considers issues like reasonable fares. Of course, this is not to say that the MTA is unconcerned with maximizing revenue or that the corporate world should not concentrate on safe, effective products and conscientious conduct; however, it is to say that different ends assume different means and expectations. For instance, we want our military (process-driven) to protect us at any cost, while we want our toothpaste company (profit-driven) to provide us with the best product at a competitive price.

How does this reality reflect in our writing? By how we set our objectives as we approach the writing situation, how we assert our purpose in the opening and closing of our messages, and how we decide which supporting details to include in the body of our messages. As a writing consultant to both worlds, I appreciated Mr. Gengo's gentle reminder.

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