By Dan Fine, Management Consultant at Hive Business.
Goals are for losers. They blind you to opportunities. Systems, on the other hand, will get you where you want to go, even if you don’t yet know precisely how, because they encourage you to be curious about better ways of doing things.
This is the argument made by cartoonist and author Scott Adams, who says that by being systems oriented, he felt himself “growing more capable every day, no matter the fate of the project I happened to be working on”.
I know what he means. At Hive we use Agile to manage all our departments. It’s been a game changer for us. Like traditional project management, Agile starts with an outcome in mind, but rather than develop an inflexible and linear plan to achieve it, it gives space for creativity, lateral thinking and collaboration.
From first seeing how Agile helped us create new skills and capabilities it was obvious what the benefits were. However, a connection I only recently made was the one between strategic planning and strategic systems, and how the latter creates radically superior outcomes.
My job as a consultant is about working strategically with dental practice owners. There are certain formalities such as meetings, minutes and actions. We set financial goals. But then we move away from those to create the environment needed to make good strategy happen quickly. Good strategy, I’ve come to realise, isn’t static, it’s a process.
A client I work with raised the value of their business from £2m to £7m in two years. There is no way we could have predicted this. It wouldn’t have sounded credible. The opportunities that arose could not have been factored in by static goals, and it required a strategic system with space for creativity and collaboration to capitalise on them.
When you are running a business profitably, it’s suddenly possible to take decisions faster. Systems accelerate skills development and leave you open to opportunities so that you can pivot and make your business successful quickly.
Adams says success is luck plus skills. Goals may be useful in narrow, simplistic and predictable pursuits that are short in duration and have a clear purpose, but they’re terrible for long endeavours like personal health and career success.
He compares the goal of losing 20lb to the system of eating healthy, one being a short term goal with no mention of quality, the other a system that imparts a self improving culture of eating more healthy. If that’s not what you want for your career and your business, what is?