Why systems decide what happens

by | Sep 23, 2020 | Entrepreneurship, Systems | 0 comments

When we first moved to Colorado, I knew the day would come eventually.

At some point, I would have to get a new driver’s license.

I dreaded walking into the dated DMV building, pulling a number tab from the machine by the door, and sitting on the uncomfortable plastic blue chairs while I waited for my name to be called.

But I had no choice, so I went.

It was every bit as fun as I expected. Meanwhile, the picture I got was far worse than my worst fears.

But I got it done, and it should be years before I have to go back.


Turns out I’m not the only one who hates going to the DMV. We all do.

As a systems person, I think a lot about systems gone wrong. What causes bad systems to exist? And what can we do about them?

Inefficient systems like the DMV are especially interesting because they serve no one. There’s no one anywhere who benefits from leaving members of the public in the waiting room for two hours. Every staff member at the DMV would love to have a string of happy customers rather than a series of increasingly frustrated people showing up at their window. State officials would prefer to have an easy process that incentivizes people to stay compliant.

But still, we all get what we get.

This is why systems are so powerful. Once a system has grown to encompass many people and deeply-rooted processes and principles, it can be filled to the brim with people who want the outcome to be different and still get the outcome the system is designed to get.

Every single person can wake up with the desire to have a different experience at the DMV, but until the system changes, that desire means very little.

What does that mean for us as entrepreneurs?

It means that for many of the problems in our businesses, if we follow the thread back, we’ll be able to find a system that’s leading to that problem or allowing it to exist.

Once we can see the system, we can change it and get a different outcome.

So if you have a challenge in your business, take a step back for a second to see if you can find the foundational system (it may be a belief system, or a routine, or a habit) that’s leading you to that result.

If you’re overwhelmed, did you say yes to a few things when you should have said no? What systems can you put in place to help you protect your time?

If you’re bouncing from project to project to project, where can you start batching or shutting out distractions?

Wanting your outcome to be different isn’t enough, but the good news is that even the simplest systems can have substantial results.

If you have something that’s not working in your business right now and you need help tracing it back to the system, let me know – I’d be happy to help!