I just had the most insightful “systems conversation” to-date with two friends of mine who work in the professional world. One is a project manager (aka “Detail Person”) and the other is a 50,000-foot-view leader.
They offered some great insights on systems:
- The system is only as good as it is detailed.
- The ability to reproduce consistent results depends on how much detail is outlined in the system.
- When creating a system you have to ask this question, “If the leader didn’t show up, would we be able to produce the same results we had when she was here?” Your ability to answer this question affirmatively is dependent upon how well you’ve documented the process.
- Every organization needs two things for its various systems: 1) a central place to store them so that the people don’t have to try to figure out where they’re at, and 2) multiple storage points so that if the building burned down, computer crashed, etc. the systems would not be lost! In other words, don’t keep all of your “The way we do things” documents on one computer!
- For every system there should be a “Disaster Recovery Plan.” In other words, we should ask ourselves, “What if…” for every system. Example – what would happen to our communication system if we lost internet connection for a week?
- Systems flow out of vision. You can’t have effective systems if you don’t have a clear vision of what you’re trying to do, or go, or be.
- Every system has sub-systems. This is where attention to detail becomes so critical.
- Every system needs a single point person who is accountable for the output/results of the entire system. This individual is tasked with leading the team(s) involved in the sub-systems. At the end of the day the “buck stops” with the point person. Example – in the church, there needs to be a point person who oversees/manages the assimilation system. This individual is responsible for the sub-systems, people, and processes all involved within the assimilation system.
- Peter Drucker says that every time an organization grows by 30% the systems will require a total overhaul! My friends agreed with this statement.
- Create and implement the system and tweak as you go. Too many leaders make the mistake of “system of the month” and destroy system effectiveness through constant overhaul!
- Accountability is a HUGE part of an effective system. One way to instill accountability is to always have a “By when” attached to every ask and/or task. Example: If we want our team to read a book, it’s not enough to simply ask them to “read this book.” We must also attach a “by the 31st of this month” to the ask. This gives us a framework for accountability.
- When systems hit a snag it’s critical for the leadership to step back and evaluate. A great quote is applicable here, “A quiet concentration will untie any knot.” Once an answer is discovered, document and implement it.
- Make it a regular practice to visit/observe other organizations. Make note of their best practices, then document and implement any applicable processes/practices to your own organization.
And so the learning continues…