Most people believe that the goal is what matters, but the truth is that it’s the system you put in place to achieve the goal that does. This book is for business owners who want to grow their business, and it explores why goal setting is not as effective as focusing on the systems behind the goals.
Without systems in place to achieve goals, they’re irrelevant. This article provides examples and case studies to help illustrate this point. The timing here is relative because it is still early in 2022 and countless businesses are realizing that the goals they set for 2022 may not be realistic. Are you one of those business owners who recognize that achieving your goal for the year may not be possible?
If you’re a business owner who wants to get your goals back on track and still grow your business this year, this article is for you.
It provides a different perspective on goal setting and shows how to put systems in place to make sure your goals are achievable. Without these systems in place, your goals will likely remain just that: goals.
The goal is not as important as the system behind it
How often do you set goals? That is, how often do you sit down and write out a list of what would make your life better six months from now? If you’re like most people, it happens often. In fact, as of early 2022, millions of people had set goals for the New Year and had vowed to achieve them by this time as well.
But have those people been successful? Many have not been. Now keep in mind that some have been—a select few have achieved their goals for this year—but the vast majority haven’t. The question is why? What makes setting goals so ineffective?
A Different Way to Look at Goals
This article explores a different way of looking at goal setting. It looks beyond what most people consider to be crucial for achieving their goals. You see, most people believe that the goal itself is what ultimately matters. It’s not, though.
It turns out that the goal is what you see on the surface. It’s what most people are talking about when they refer to your goals. But it’s not where your focus should be. Instead, it should be on the systems you put in place to achieve them.
What would be different if you reached this goal? How would your life be better?
It’s a different way to look at things, but one that is more effective. After all, you can have a goal and will likely not achieve it because of a lack of systems in place. In other words, the goal itself isn’t as important as what you do to achieve that goal—the system you put in place.
How much more money will your business make next year if you increase sales by 25%? Or how much happier will you be because of this?
These are questions that help you determine the value of achieving a goal.
What does perfect health look like for you?
Walking up the stairs without huffing and puffing, running every day, or having normal blood pressure and heart rate numbers with minimal effort at controlling those numbers?
What’s different about this way of looking at things?
It gets you away from the goal and focuses on what achieving that goal will bring. You can revolve your entire business around a single core value, which is a great example of why the system behind the goals matters more than the goals themselves.
What’s your plan?
Every week we talk about what we’re going to eat on Sunday so that we can stick with our meal plans all week. We tell ourselves we’ll get up early and exercise every morning (or evening) before the day gets away from us. We make promises of how we’re going to spend more time with our children, spouses, parents, and friends.
I’m not judging any of this – because if you’re reading this then these ideas ring true for you as well: “If I just stick with it!! If I could just add X activity into my week Y will happen.”
Then next week comes and things change and we don’t quite know why it feels so much harder than last time even though all the conditions are nearly identical. Life happens and we keep on keeping on…because that’s what we do.
We never simplify our goals by developing a clear plan for achieving them
I’m not talking about a standard ‘to-do list – I’m specifically referring to a list of your work priorities for the year, or the three things you need to accomplish this week that will have everything else fall into place.
Great books have been written on goal setting and if you’re not familiar with this topic, I would suggest that you check out:
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business
Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
In this article, we’ll take a look at what’s wrong with having goals in light of what really matters in growing a business, the systems behind the goals.
If for some reason you don’t care about increasing your revenue, increasing your profits, and having more fun in your business – feel free to stop reading. Otherwise, stick around, and let’s explore why goal setting is an ineffective way to run a business.
What the heck are we doing then?
I talk with lots of entrepreneurs about what they’re working on right now, what their goals for the year look like (and beyond), and how they get past the inevitable roadblocks or failures that show up on our path.
The most common responses I hear start with:
- “I want to…”
- “I’m going to…”
- “My goal is…(insert your goal here)”
There’s nothing wrong with any of these statements but rarely does the conversation go to systems UNLESS I ask them:
“How are you going to get there?”
“What systems do you have in place….what systems do you need to get in place?”
I find it interesting how infrequently we talk about systems instead of goals. Let’s look at some examples of systems.
The following are examples of systems, not goals:
- Getting up at 7 am each day to work out before I start my workday.
- Winning a local competition that has me working with the top business owners in this city.
- Spending time on Saturday afternoons writing articles for our blog.
The primary reason for talking about goals instead of the plan to achieve them is simply because it feels better to be moving toward something instead of avoiding something.
It takes less discipline and effort to accomplish something you want as opposed to never missing your goal which typically involves implementing systems that support your success.
Also, there’s no guilt or judgment when you don’t hit your goal so it can be easy to forget about those little ‘systems’. It just goes by like it never even existed which is why a goal is useless without a supporting system.
Next, we will look further into how to achieve goals without having goals as your main focus.
How to Achieve Goals Without Focusing on Them, Is that really possible?
Let me stop you right there: there is no magic formula for achieving your goals in a way that will keep you chasing after them forever.
It seems that when it comes to goal setting, our collective experience has been that even if we get the end result once, it’s very likely that we won’t get it again.
The same goes with losing 10lbs (or 50lbs!) too – it feels great at first but like most things in life, especially dealing with human beings, getting used to something changes everything.
Instead of focusing on specific goals and creating detailed plans for reaching them, focus on the systems required to make your business run day-in and day-out without having to rely on discipline or willpower to get things done.
Systems are more than just actions – they’re habits based on behaviors or thought patterns that surround what you’re doing on a daily basis.
For example, if your goal is to find more new customers for your business then one of your systems might be calling 5 local businesses/day while the other system might be getting on LinkedIn and Facebook 3 times per week to talk with potential customers in your industry.
Both of these items relate directly to finding new customers but it’s not the actual activity that matters most (although that does matter too). What really makes a difference is when you have both of those systems in place consistently every week without relying on discipline or motivation to “get them done.”
Focusing on systems is easier in the long run
It can feel weird at first to simply focus on the systems instead of the goals but I find that if you view your business as a long-term investment or project that this approach becomes much easier.
As an example, look at how simple it would be to define success for building a new home:
- Save up enough money to fund the project
- Work with architects and planners
- Buy land
- Build the house
These are all systems required for completing the goal of completing the project – there’s no way you’ll get your house built without putting each one of these actions in place over time.
How Systems Play Out in Your Business
If you’re not sure what system-based thinking looks like in real life here’s an example to help paint the picture: You want to make more sales.
Your system for accomplishing this could be:
- Send 5 personalized proposals/month
- Follow up with qualified prospects twice every week
- Attend one networking event per month
Now all of these items require you to do genuine work but since we’re focusing on the system here, not the goal, it becomes much easier to consistently execute this plan because there’s no specific end-date or win condition required.
Of course, some goals will come into play as part of your systems such as those found in step #2 above (following up with qualified prospects), but by keeping your focus on the systems instead of the goals you’ll soon find new opportunities that wouldn’t have been possible had you been chasing after a specific target.
Focusing on systems leads to new ideas
One of the most exciting parts about this approach is that it’s more often than not going to lead to new ideas or openings you wouldn’t have found had you been laser-focused on hitting some set number in your business.
In fact, systems are some of the best ways to avoid getting caught in a sales slump because systems can be built around anything from content marketing to social media and as long as those systems are in place – even if you’re selling less at any given time – then there’s no reason for concern since everything else will be covered too.
This approach is NOT for…
While system-based thinking has worked well for me over the years, I’m definitely not suggesting that it’s the right solution for everyone.
If you’re in a business where just showing up each day isn’t enough to get results then systems aren’t going to be very helpful to you since you’ll likely need something more hands-on and specific in order to see real progress in your business.
For example, if you play in a band and want to move from local gigs in bars and cafes up to performing at larger venues or even on television then having a system in place won’t help much because every gig is different and needs its own unique approach.
In this case, goals are better suited for getting things done because there’s not enough of a pattern or routine required from show-to-show sticking with one system will get tiresome and frustrating.
On the other hand, if you’re stuck in a business that is highly formulaic such as making phone calls or sending emails then system-based thinking could be just what you need to take your business to the next level.
The reason I say this is because even though there might be a set number of calls required each week, for example, it’s still possible to make a goal out of each one of them instead.
For instance: ‘ Make 200 dials per week’ which can easily become an obsession in itself because now every dial needs to be seen as a step towards achieving the ultimate goal.
If your focus starts slipping on any given day or week with goals like this in place you’ll soon find yourself back at square one even if you haven’t missed a single call.
What I Find Exciting About Systems and Goals
The one thing that excites me the most about systems is their ability to move with us as we change throughout life.
This is what makes systems such an attractive solution for those of us looking to build lasting success in our business: they let us focus on activities that promote growth without requiring specific end-goals or win conditions.
For example, as your business grows (and it will) you’ll inevitably have more team members helping you get things done. With a goal – which has a clear target at the end of it – this could present a number of problems because now your team member might feel like they aren’t getting enough attention from you, or that there’s something else motivating their work other than the success of your collective goals.
A system on the other hand doesn’t have to be any different when you add someone new into the mix; in fact, systems are often built with multiple people in mind allowing them to adapt easily as more hands come on board.
This way everyone is able to contribute equally while also playing to their specific strengths and taking care of the tasks they’re best suited for (and enjoy most) without feeling like they’re being slighted or taken advantage of.
By switching the focus of your thinking from goals (with their one-time win condition) to systems (which can be repeated indefinitely without limitations), you dramatically increase your chances of success by focusing on activities rather than outcomes.
This way you’re able to ensure continuity of effort across time with no risk or downside if everything doesn’t go exactly as planned along the way. Goal setting is great in theory but when you look at it more closely it doesn’t stand up to the test of time and actually creates more problems than it solves.
If you want to make sure that your business is moving forward and growing successfully, it’s important not only to set goals but also to put in place the systems needed for those goals.
Systems help us take care of things like consistent marketing efforts or making calls every week without getting stuck on one specific goal as an end result. The reason this system works is that even if we don’t meet our goal (or a team member joins) we’re able to keep going with no risks or downsides by focusing on activities instead of outcomes.
This kind of thinking will allow you and your team members to work towards long-term success while taking advantage of what each person brings into the mix. If your company wants some assistance setting up its own successful system, just send me an email using the contact form on my website and I’d be happy to help.
15 Reasons why goals are not relevant in business
1. Goals are set at the end of a plan’s timeline, but the goal is only relevant if the system that created it will continue to create goals in the future.
This means that you want to focus on starting with your systems and making sure they are sustainable, rather than focusing on goals that can be abandoned at any time.
2. Goals are the outputs of your systems, not the system itself.
If you focus on your goals when designing your business’s processes, then when something outside of your control happens, you will have no ability to pivot and adjust your plan to get back on track like a successful company would be able to do (Because they built systems that can do this).
3. Systems that achieve goals are not identified by measuring your goals, but by measuring the process that created them.
In other words, it takes a lot of trial and error to build these systems, because you cannot see the inputs leading to the outputs on a goal.
4. The ability to achieve goals is based on data from previous outcomes, not from trying different things until something worked.
This means that the volume of failing at something over and over again before finally learning how to do it is detrimental to your goal achievement because you are just putting more time into failing rather than achieving success.
5. Systems produce the same results when all inputs stay the same, but goals can change with any shift in input (Company’s plans change, employees leave, etc.).
Therefore you will never be able to achieve the same goal twice.
6. Systems produce results regardless of what happens around them (The world could end and your business would still produce), but anything outside of a system’s control can halt goal achievement (Bad weather, political unrest, etc.)
7. All systems have a limited number of outputs before reaching diminishing returns, while goals can be achieved over and over again without limitation.
This means that you want to focus on systems instead of goals so you do not waste time trying to achieve the same goal over and over again without receiving any benefit from it.
8. Systems require constant effort while Goals can be forgotten at any time.
This means that you want to focus on systems rather than goals because it is more important for your business to maintain and improve what the system was designed to do, as opposed to only working on the goal of achieving success.
9. A system becomes stronger with practice, but a goal becomes weaker with practice.
For example, practicing a sport, or practicing a musical instrument over and over again.
This means that you want to focus on the system rather than the goal because as you become more successful at achieving your goal, it becomes less important.
10. The ability to achieve goals is based on how much money they are worth, but systems can create value from anything no matter how small the input.
This means that you want to focus on systems instead of goals because even if your goal is to earn $1,000,000 per year, you can still achieve it by creating a system that creates $100 of value each day.
11. The more important your goal is, the less likely it will be achieved because the more effort that goes into your goal, the less likely you are to achieve it (There will always be an excuse not to pursue your most important goals).
While systems work without any thought involved so even the lowest priority system can be worked on.
12. Systems generate multiple outputs, but goals only have one output.
For example, if your goal is to lose weight, you do not gain it back when you achieve that goal.
Therefore you only want to focus on systems because out of all the outcomes your system can create, one of them will be successful.
13. Systems are comprised of inputs and outputs, whereas goals are simply about setting intentions for what you desire
For example, it is the system that runs the body whereas your desire is to lose weight. Therefore you want to focus on systems rather than goals because out of all the systems in place, one of them will produce what you want.
14. Goals are created when we want something we do not have.
For example, wanting to be successful. But systems are created when you want to maintain or improve what you already have (For example already being successful).
This means that you only want to focus on the system because out of all the systems in existence, one of them is responsible for your success.
15. Systems are more productive than goals because they remove the need for motivation. No matter how much effort you put into a system, its automatic nature will always produce results.
And yet goals require consistent motivation to remain relevant even though no matter how much effort is put into them, the only result produced from the goal is more effort on your part.
Therefore you want to focus on systems rather than goals because of their capability for sustainable productivity.
Now it’s time to get started on your systems
In this post, we explored the difference between goal-oriented thinking and a systems-based approach. Goal setting is a great way to start off your New Year but if you want sustainable results, it’s important that you focus on system development as well. In order to make the switch from goals to systems for your business, consider these action steps:
- Evaluate your business and determine which areas would benefit from a system-based approach instead of goal-oriented thinking.
- Create a plan for how you will transition your business to a system-based model, making sure to include specific timelines and objectives.
- Take the time to learn about different types of systems and how they can be applied in various contexts.
- Implement the new system-based approach in one area of your business at a time, measuring results along the way to ensure success.
The last step is an ongoing process because even after all changes are made, you would want to continue measuring results in the different applications that are in good working order.
Celebrate your accomplishments as you reach milestones en route to building a successful business based on systems.
Do you really want to grow your business?
Goal setting is not as effective as focusing on the systems behind the goals. Without systems in place to achieve goals, they’re irrelevant.
Setting goals is a popular way to motivate oneself, but it’s not nearly as effective as creating and implementing systems. Systems are what make sure you reach your goal, not just hoping and wishing for it. Most people never take the time to create a system and thus never achieve their goal.
Profit Pro Business Consulting can help business owners create successful systems that will get them where they want to be. We have years of experience in this field and can provide our clients with the tools they need to succeed. Contact us today for a free consultation!
What Is Process Mapping & Why It’s Important For Your Business
Why Workflow Process Mapping Is A Crucial Tool For Small Businesses
Process Mapping: How To Create Cross-Functional Flowcharts For SMB’s