Published in Conway Daily Sun
Systems, systems, systems... for years, it seemed like all I talked about. The fact is, most large businesses have serious systems
challenges and most small business have a serious lack of systems all-together. The truth is, your systems are designed perfectly to produce the results you are getting. Repeat that and read it slowly: Your systems are designed perfectly to produce the results you are
getting. Slow sales? That is a result of your sales system. Blame it on the weather? The economy? Your sales team? Your systems allow for these factors. Even if you sell parkas and it never gets cold, perhaps your sales system has a lack of diversification. Just about everything that happens is the result of your systems or lack of systems.
I hear your point that your systems didn't cause your key supplier to go bankrupt, or your mall's anchor tenant to move out, leaving you with no traffic, or for your most productive employee to get married or retire. So how can I constantly preach that everything that happens to you is your responsibility? That everything is within your power? I thought you would never ask!
About every few months, most organizations have a challenge that, if left unaddressed, could jeopardize the success of the organization. It would make sense then, to have a system for adapting to change. Now before you roll your eyes and tell me I'm crazy, this isn't some deep philosophy of embracing your inner thinker or forgiving your mother.
This is about a real, tangible, teachable, practical and useful approach to handling change and activating your team to their battle stations.
I've always preached that to produce predictable results, you should design your business around systems, not people. Then, you hire people to run the systems. This remains basically true for many small startups because most small startups are not launched by people with a natural orientation toward creating systems. Either way, your systems will be obsolete very shortly anyway. The marketplace is moving at break-neck speed, so no matter how good your idea is today, it is likely to require minor or major adjustments soon. What's more, is that even if you were smart enough to create all the systems (hint - you're not), how do you inspire everyone to follow your systems? How do you create the accountability for following the systems? How do you find time and energy to create the next new system after you're in the deep weeds trying to juggle everything you have to do? Right, you create a system for
This “Mother of all Systems”, will need to have a rhythm to it - our recommendation is a quarterly review of systems and the people running them. Annual employee and system reviews are far too infrequent to be useful. (If you don't do it at all, you should feel a little panicky right now). Covey's first habit of highly effective people - Be Proactive. That means find and fix problems before they happen. The way to get ahead of the curve and stop living in crisis mode, always "putting out fires" is to get into the practice of "fire prevention". Quarterly review of all systems and the people running them and weekly accountability with every team member reporting in on their contribution to the systems. This is hard core, focused, highly productive, strictly enforced, take no prisoners, all-business, no-more-Mr. Nice Guy, my retirement is on the line, grown-up work time! The Industrial Age is dead (no newsflash there). So why do we still try to motivate and correct employee behavior with the old model?
To do all the above will require a team of people who love working with you and with each other. We need to create
a serious game that people take seriously and still have fun playing. Professional sports players take their work very seriously, work very hard, are extremely disciplined, held accountable, and have fun loving their work. Why then, in the typical workplace do we think that people can't enjoy their work life the same way? Let's be brave enough to be vulnerable, to ask for help, to count on the team, to invest in the team, to nurture the team, to engage the team and to hold the team accountable. It's time we took all the wisdom from the great business books we read and figure out what it would mean to really apply the lessons. I mean to really, really apply the lessons. My greatest joy is helping an individual or business discover how to put into practice, a system they created to produce the results they want and to repeat that process with predictability. You can get this process started on your own by reviewing your own goals, the systems you have to reach those goals and the people running those systems. Contact me if you get stuck, I'm good at un-sticking.
Its summer, so I hope you're reading this from somewhere beautiful. If not, we can work on that as a new goal! Because my systems allow me to be where I want, pursuing what I want, I'm in Scottsdale this week, renewing my personal and professional skills. I promise to find some time to work on my next column about systems for communicating vision and co-creating goals and strategies with your team.