It's become a common mantra in sport, in fact I've probably heard it a lot more in interviews in various sports than I ever did in business. Trust the process. To recover from injury, improve at something, or apply a specific technique under pressure.
I was once at a workshop with Dave Alred, one of the world's top performance coaches who worked with guys like Luke Donald to become the world's top ranked golfer and rugby world cup winner Johnny Wilkinson. He talked about creating a process to follow, even for an action that those sportsmen would have performed thousands of times already. Relying on instinct and skill might be fine in training. But in front of 80,000 people, most of them willing you to miss? With millions more watching on TV? Alred explained that Johnny Wilkinson would concentrate not just on the rugby ball he was about to kick but on a very precise spot on it, on the stitching of the ball. His job was to make sure his boot hit exactly that spot on the ball as he kicked it. That was his process. On the training ground or in the biggest game of his career. It might not remove all of the pressure or tension or distractions, but it helps.
I've never faced that kind of pressure, but then to an extent it's all relative. I might never photograph George Clooney or Bill Gates, but what happens if I only have 2 minutes to create a portrait on the street or of a friend? Or if a key piece of my kit fails during a shoot for a major client? Then there's pressure. I know I can handle most photoshoots. I can rely on experience, on all of the images I've already made, on being able to adapt and respond to any problems, on being able to come up with new ideas. Sometimes it's a good test to improvise, to rely on spontaneity.
But usually I want a process, a checklist, to remind myself of the aims and what's most important to the shoot. To check my gear and settings, the location and times. To plan and pre-visualize a few of the images.
It might sound boring and anti-creative to a photographer, and maybe that's because we can 'get away with' a more spontaneous approach. Most filmmakers wouldn't even contemplate going out to shoot a scene without a plan and a script.
The process isn't everything. But it can be just as useful to a photographer as it is to the best in business or sports.