What are the factors that make you successful? Do you know? We usually don’t ask what makes us successful, only what makes us fail. When something fails, we instinctively hold a mental inquisition and attempt to identify and execute the offender.
However, we are not as quick to dig around when everything goes right.
“Just keep doing what you’re doing” we often say. But what are we doing? If tomorrow everything tanked, what would you start rebuilding? This is why it’s important to identify the factors that make us successful.
I recently started developing a grid to help me put some skin on this. After all, it’s difficult to evaluate a ministry, business, project, or a household from the ground up without some kind of template. And for those new to this kind of evaluation, knowing where to begin can be very confusing. So while this grid isn’t exhaustive by any means, hopefully it’s a great springboard that launches you in the right direction. So without further ado, I give you my grid:
Systems, Cultures, and Teams
Now you may be thinking “That’s not a grid, that’s just 3 lousy words”! True, but don’t let the simplicity derail you here. One reason this works is because it’s simple. Depending on your situation, you may use this quite frequently, so it makes sense to keep it streamlined. Let me start breaking this down a bit, and I believe you’ll begin to see the value.
For our purpose, a system is set of interacting actions or pieces that, together, produce an identifiable result. Think of it like this, in my house we have a post-dinner system. Once the meal is done, my son Xander clears the table, my daughter McKenzie washes the dishes, and my son Mason drys and puts them away. It’s incredibly basic, but each element of the system contributes to producing an end result – clean dishes back in the cupboard. Notice I did not qualify the overall consistency or effectiveness of our system. That comes later. For now we just identify it as a system.
In that example the system was intentionally designed. But not all systems are intentional, some just happen by default. Default systems are typically ineffective at producing good results, although probably just a consistent. Because nobody crafted them, they’re usually a product of the “easy road” and produce results nobody really wants.
I recently corrected a negative default system in my personal life. For several months I’d developed a habit of staying up late to watch TV. That single decision (or lack of one) had significant impact on several areas I needed to improve. Because I stayed up late I got up late, didn’t have time to exercise, didn’t have time to read my bible, and didn’t have time to talk and pray with Karrie before starting our day. Additionally, TV in the evening was taking the place of reading good books and spending more time with my kids.
So here’s my intentionally crafted system. Since the first of the year, my family has been on a “no tube during the week” system. It was initially unpopular, but we’ve all commented that we like it better this way. Intentionally making a decision to eliminate TV during the week was the single key to regaining ALL the things listed above that I value.
One tweak in the system had a significant ripple effect, not only on me, but also my family.
Andy Stanley often says, “Your system is perfectly designed to give you the results you’re getting”. Don’t like the end product? Interrogate the system responsible for producing the outcome. This applies to social interactions, assembly lines, food production, church services, athletics, and myriad other arenas! Trying to change the outcome without addressing the system is like taking Tylenol for a brain hemorrhage. It may temporarily mask the discomfort, but there’s a massive problem in the background that’s going to get worse.
If you’ve been successful at anything, chances are good that there was a system propelling you in that direction. Even a default system, while much less likely, can result in success. We usually call this the “secret sauce”. The problem comes when you or I don’t know the ingredients of our own sauce. If something ever corrupts it, we’ll be hard pressed to correct it if we don’t understand it.
From time to time pick up the end product, look at it, sniff it, poke it; if it isn’t what you want, go back and tweak the system.
Pick something you’re successful at. What system propelled you toward that success?