If you've heard the expression, "The ends justify the means," you've probably heard it in a negative context. That is, "The ends don't justify the means." This reaction is completely appropriate to the situation to which this saying is usually applied. You are trying to help poor Joe get out of foreclosure so you break into rich Sally's house to steal some money.
These sorts of situations do pop up from time to time, but it occurred to me that most of the time, the means aren't the important thing, but the end. That is, the most effective person (and usually the smartest person) is the one who is focused on the outcome rather than the process of getting to the outcome.
There are two important caveats here. One is that there are immoral ways of getting to a goal. That's where the saying, "The end doesn't justify the means," comes in.
A second important caveat is that process can be very important in effectively reaching a goal. In fact, the real purpose of good process is to make it easier to reach the goal. The larger a goal, the larger an organization, the more important it becomes to have good processes in place. There are certain small church pastors whose churches will never get much beyond 100, if that much, because they are unable to set up processes that do not involve them at the center of everything.
But the bane of traditional institutions is not individual initiative and creativity. Institutions--especially academic institutions--are notorious for loving process, for loving the means and never getting to the ends. It's the all too familiar enjoyment of loving to talk about things without ever making a decision or implementing anything. I have a saying, "Only people who don't like meetings should be allowed to lead meetings."
(I was in a meeting at a Christian college in Pennsylvania once and was fascinated that the President seemed to be an entrepreneur and the Academic Dean was a "process" type person--probably a good combination. The President there, as I recall, was making the college move into the online arena. Meanwhile, the Dean was dotting the i's and crossing the academic t's--it was fascinating to me.)
Process is only valuable if it gets us more quickly or efficiently to the goal. Focus on process for its own sake is stupidity. Most of the time, it doesn't matter whether you take Nebraska St. or Baldwin Ave. But the person who cuts across the grass path will get there faster than the one who takes the pretty sidewalk that winds around. The ends usually trump the means in our day to day decision making.
P.S. I like to think that Hitler's early successes were because he was a good planner... and I would like to think that the ultimate Allied victory was because we were good improvisers.