Goals are one thing, systems are another. Systems are defined by Webster as a regularly interacting or interdependent group of items forming a unified whole. Often around this time of year, we think about goals for the year ahead. We dream, sometimes outrageously, sometimes practically. But rarely do we think about systems that we can create or put in place to make these goals a reality.
The same often happens with organisational change. We dream, create visions, and set goals, but then forget about the systems required. In fact, too often, we leave the existing systems in place hoping they will usher in the new vision. But they don’t because the systems were created for a different vision.
Goals often rely on willpower and passion (or ‘feeling like it’). Whereas a systems approach realises we run out of willpower or feeling like it and therefore attempts to make it automatic. If our goal is drinking less alcohol, we get rid of it all in our house, we tell others, we meet in cafes not pubs, and so on. If exercise is our goal, we again tell others, set time and place and routines to do everyday, and do it with others, and so on.
For change in organisations, we can still set goals, but more than this we need to find daily repeatable actions that bring the goal to life. Goals are often too lofty, too out of reach or distance from our current reality. Daily repeatable actions make them seem possible, achievable. The daily actions help us all respond with ‘I can do that.’
And we can.