What Are Systems?
When I speak of systems in this post, I am primarily defining these as coordinated methods, plans, schemes, or procedures.
For a comprehensive definition of systems check out Dictionary.com.
Systems often share common characteristics, including [Source: Wikipedia]:
- A system has structure, it contains parts (or components) that are directly or indirectly related to each other;
- A system has behavior, it contains processes that transform inputs into outputs (material, energy or data);
- A system has interconnectivity: the parts and processes are connected by structural and/or behavioral relationships.
- A system’s structure and behavior may be decomposed via subsystems and sub-processes to elementary parts – and process steps.
Systems Are All Around Us
Systems are everywhere. Some are the natural creation of God. Some are the invention of man. In the end, though, we couldn’t survive without them. Here are some real-life examples.
Human Body: God has created our physical bodies with their own unique systems – nervous, respiratory, digestive, muscular, skeletal, urinary, endocrine, and reproductive.
Transportation: our streets and highways have clearly defined rules and systems in place that include signage, stop lights, right of way, vehicle speeds, highway entrances and exits, and so on.
Government: city, county, state, and federal each have their own unique, established systems. For example, our federal government is composed of three branches – executive, legislative, and judicial. And, within each branch of government, there are organizational sub-systems in place in order to maintain as smoothly a flowing government as possible.
Business: businesses are composed of numerous systems including customer service, lead generation, purchasing, hiring, shipping, accounting, payroll, collections, and custodial.
Well running systems are important to the health, vitality, safety, and growth for both individuals and organizations.
Consider your own physical body systems that I referenced above. Each system works independently and interdependently. If just one of these systems is functioning improperly, it impacts the other systems in some way. For example, the urinary system removes waste from the body. If this one, seemingly small system is not functioning properly, waste builds up in the human body and begins to shut down the other major body systems. Not good.
Also, consider the most successful organizations. Why are they so successful? Why do they run so smoothly and run large profits? Because they have incredible CEO’s? Yes, leadership is important. But, the greatest organizations have established great systems that propel the organization forward, even in the absence of the best leaders.
Show me any thriving, energetic, growing, productive person, family, business, or organization, and we should be able to uncover multiple, excellent systems in place. Great systems running in the background of our personal and professional lives simply and efficiently allow this to take place.
How about you? Do you have systems set-up in your personal life? Do you have established systems in your work environment? If you lead an organization, have you ever given much thought to your current systems? Who put them in place? Were these intentional or purely accidental systems that evolved over time?
After reading this post, take this opportunity to evaluate your personal, business, and organizational systems. Perform a whole systems audit. What’s working great right now? What systems could use an overhaul?
It probably seems like a lot of work on the front end, but the end results will be worth that hard work. Take the time now to fix or create systems to propel your life and work from okay to awesome.