Goals and systems can work together

Having begun my business career in a chain store retail environment the importance of achieving measurable goals — particularly sales increases — was baked into my brain. This was an era of very high inflation and a business that was not growing in step with rising prices was actually losing ground. It still makes for a feeling of puzzlement inside me now, decades later, when I encounter CEDF clients who do not establish relevant, defined goals for their own business growth.

Along the way, by owning my own retail operations, I began to better understand the nuances of defining goals and motivating teams to accomplishing them. If for example, one has a location impacted by a major change in customer traffic due to the disappearance of a nearby major store, the underlying need to accomplish growth doesn’t go away, but the management approach sure does. When your team is feeling discouraged over the difficulty — if not impossibility — of achieving a goal, you need something besides a bigger whip.

This is just one situation where systems should take the spotlight. Like a baseball batter in a hitting slump who refocuses on fundamentals, systems can mitigate or even turn around what seem to be intractable challenges.  But effective systems have to already be in place and ready to reach for. Perhaps, because I spent so many of my early years as a systems-builder in the organizations where I worked, the need for systems and processes seemed so obvious, for years I didn’t understand their real value in supporting the accomplishment of goals.

I’ve run across a few articles in recent years about using systems over goals. Some by cartoonist Scott Adams inspired discussions in our Small Business As Usual podcast 18-4 with Caleb Roseme.

It appears others were impressed with the Adams approach because this author wrote a great straight-forward interpretation.

But I don’t completely agree. A ship can have an efficient crew, working with great efficiency, but the rudder has to be pointed in some direction. As baseball great Yogi Berra supposedly said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.”

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