Goals are fine. They set a target for where you, and the department, and the organization desire to arrive.
Systems are far more interesting. And more useful. They’re the how of any goal. Outside of luck, systems are what turns the wish of a goal into the reality of achievement.
“Goals are about the results you want to achieve,” writes James Clear. “Systems are about the processes that lead to those results.”
People working for organizations spend a fair amount of time setting goals. They spend time talking about how they will achieve those goals, too. They don’t spend nearly enough time working on changing or developing the systems to support the achievement of those goals.
A goal to increase demand (volume!) by 10 percent is a good example. The goal is easy to set. It’s easy to describe the how. But without reorienting your processes for finding new patients, forming new relationships, and improving operations to serve those new patients … well the goal becomes more of a wish than a target.
“You do not rise to the level of your goals,” Clear also writes, “You fall to the level of your systems.”
Of course this process work, this systems work, is being done, it’s technically the work we’re hired to do. But it rarely receives the same ritualistic treatment that setting goals gets.
Systems set the parameters for achievement. With adequate systems, goals are more likely to be achieved. Insufficient systems lead to the continuation of the status quo.
Working on systems—creating, optimizing, altering, innovating, dismantling, aligning, realigning, and, among other activities, improving the processes of work that lead to performance—is the work worthy of ritual.