Cowboys vs Eagles – a lesson in process elegance

An excerpt from, The Elegant Process by Jason Kilgore

Ensuring an elegant process requires an understanding of and appreciation for process rhythm. Process rhythm is the flow and cadence at which the process moves in time. We tend to think of rhythm as it relates to music or a beating heart or your favorite poem. Processes also have rhythms. Process rhythm defines how each step in the process works together to create a continuous, synchronous process flow. I remember going to Philadelphia one year to watch the Dallas Cowboys play the Philadelphia Eagles back in the Troy Aikman / Emmett Smith / Michael Irvin era. It was the first professional football game I had ever attended in person. As I watched the Dallas offense, I was amazed by the precision and timing of all eleven players. One play in particular sticks in my mind. The ball was snapped, the offensive line battled the defenders, and the wide receivers took off down the field, running their routes. Aikman let the ball fly. I was not sure who he was throwing it to! Just after he released the ball, Michael Irvin cut back inside toward the middle of the field. Michael reached out and caught the ball without breaking stride. Immediately, he was surrounded and brought down by the Eagles’ defense.The reason I remember this so vividly is not because of the beer being tossed in the air. It was not the Eagle fans screaming and cursing. It was sheer elegance of how the quarterback, receiver, and offensive line worked in perfect concert to pull off such a play. Surrounded by passionate Eagle fans, I kept these observations of the Cowboys’ perfect rhythm to myself, of course. I’ve watched football on TV for as long as I can remember. But watching professional football on television never gave me an appreciation for the process rhythm required to complete a thirty-yard pass. It was not until that point that I understood just how important rhythm is to football.

And the same is true for process. It takes many pieces working together at the same time, for the same reason, in the same rhythm. Without a rhythm, a process can quickly disintegrate into random actions, each marching to the beat of its own drum. Rhythm is the unifying force holding together all the tasks and actions contained within a process.