Every leader I know is pursuing excellence in his or her arena. Consistent execution is the final hall pass on the path to greatness. Systems make excellence predictable. However, systems only work when we work them. Today’s question is from a leader who asked: “How do we make new systems stick?”
A system is a pre-determined and validated set of activities or approaches, to consistently produce the desired result.
Here’s a simple example from the chicken world. We sell Waffle Potato Fries. It has been predetermined and validated that our customers prefer their fries to be served hot (we’ve actually done research to determine what temperature they prefer). In order to consistently deliver what the customer wants, we have a holding system for fries once they are cooked:
When the fries come out of the fryer, a timer starts, a few minutes later, when the buzzer sounds, any remaining fries from that batch should not be served to our guests – The hold time has expired.
Yes, systems can be that simple.
Successful organizations have scores, if not hundreds of systems. An airline pilot has a pre-flight checklist; a research laboratory has testing protocol (system) for clinical trials; and non-profit organizations have systems to keep track of donors and volunteers.
Now, to the question – how do you make systems stick? Here’s a system (checklist) to help:

  1. Is the system needed to enable consistent execution?
  2. Does the existing system actually work?
  3. Do the people who need to use the system understand why it matters?
  4. Have the people who will use the system been trained on how to use it?
  5. Are the expectations regarding usage of the system clear?
  6. Do you celebrate the success of the people who use the system?
  7. Do you coach those who struggle using the system?
  8. Are consequences clear and applied for those who don’t use the system?

If you can answer these eight questions: YES! your system will stick.
A word of caution… too many systems can lead to bureaucracy, stifle creativity, individuality and innovation. Part of your leadership role is to ensure enough systems to excel at execution and not so many you plunge your organization into the morass of mediocrity.
It is a fine line – too many systems and your organization will be slow, lethargic and unremarkable. If you have too few systems you will be sloppy at the point of execution. Your role is to help your organization find its own unique sweet spot regarding systems.
Here’s the rule of thumb: Every organization should have as many systems as required and no more.tweet_bird
Put whatever systems you need in place to ensure consistent execution… Greatness hinges on execution![GLS_Shield]
Idea for Action: Identify a system your organization currently struggles to utilize consistently. Use the checklist above. I would love to hear about your experience. You can leave your comments below.