I've been reading The Smartest Guys in the Room - the seminal book on Enron and the eventual downfall, and the book, along with my consulting experiences, have led me to a conclusion about most organizations and how they are structured. It seems that most firms care about and place emphasis on one axis of measurement or the other - they either care about RESULTS (who cares how the results were achieved) or PROCESS (process over all). Now, it's simplistic to say that firms only focus on one or the other of these when in fact both have to be addressed at some level. Realistically though most firms place more emphasis on one or the other. If we were to break it down into a 2x2 matrix - the favorite analysis approach of any self-respecting MBA - we'd see these four quadrants:
High Process/Low Results: This organization emphasizes the process to a fault. The results often are understood and barely achieved, but the process governs everything. Rewards are focused based on adherence to the process, risk taking and new thinking is discouraged except to improve or enhance the process.
High Process/High Results: Ideally, where we'd like all firms to be. Clarity and focus in operationally excellent processes and high achievement on results. Few firms manage to be very good at both over the long run, although we all would like for that to be true.
Low Process/High Results: This is where Enron and a lot of the dot-com boom failed. There were short term "results" - perhaps measuring the wrong things. Most firms must scale out of this mode where there are results but the results aren't sustainable over the long run. This model has the most room for experimentation but the greatest risk of failure.
Low Process/Low Results: Typically you won't find a lot of firms in this quadrant very long. A firm cannot subsist very long with poor operating models and poor results.
So, let's assume for the sake of argument that most firms belong in one of the first three quadrants identified, and that it's rare that firms do a good job achieving high adherence to both process and results over the long run. That means at any point in time most firms are either in the Low Process/High results quadrant (a potential Enron) or in the High process/Low Results quadrant (safe, secure and boring). If that argument is true, then what you have are the brash upstarts (low process/High results) versus the comfortable incumbents (high process/low results). Only the paranoid, to quote Andy Grove (high process/high results) survive. The brash upstarts either get process and manage more effectively or burn out, and the comfortable incumbents get blindsided by the upstarts and forced to change, or they change themselves.
What should matter to you is not so much where your firm exists in the three quadrants, but what is the trajectory and trend line for your firm. If you are a brash upstart - do you have the ability to add reasonable controls and process to sustain your growth? If you are a comfortable incumbent, do you have the ability to change, introduce risk and grow? If you are in the high/high category, can you balance the potentially choking growth of process to maintain high efficiency, and marry that with creative growth and effectiveness? Don't worry about where you are - you are there now anyway. Start thinking about your trajectory and where you are headed, since this is a difficult ship to steer, and will take time to move effectively.