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4 Questions That Make Stronger Systems

“If the system isn’t serving us, we need better systems.” A phrase that is used weekly in our team meetings as we probe and push for progress. What’s a system? While you’ll find different viewpoints and definitions online, I like to stick with the following.

“A system is a series of steps that lets anyone on the team accomplish any part of the dream.”

It sets a standard and expectation for “how we do it here”. From providing a medical or safety response to making sure the bathroom has paper towels, the structure is similar because the system is familiar to the people responsible who run them. When looking at your systems, here are the top four questions to maximize and streamline excellence.

Is the system simple?

The team thing is more fun when everyone can play the game. Keeping systems simple ensures that everyone on the team has a chance to win. Packing up a portable sound system after a Sunday church plant? Turn the 3 boring black tubs into 3 different colors. XLR cables go in the red tub. Quarter inch cords go in the blue tub. Extension cords go in the orange tub. Not enough techy volunteers? Wrap the end of each cord with its corresponding color tape to match the containers. Unleash the matching games after church, and you’ve got everything in the right tub at the right time.

Is the system secure?

The digital world is constantly gathering people’s “PII”: Private Identifiable Information. People’s information is the most precious thing they can give us, so we must take it seriously and protect it. Online systems (cloud-based or locally-served) should meet the standards that currently exist. The right info at the right place for the right person, only. If everyone has a “key” to the “box”, it’s not secure. Google “Protecting PII” for a¬†better understanding of the subject.

Is the system scalable?

My absolute favorite part of any computer is the ability to “copy” and “paste”. Each system should past the copy/paste test. Can I do this same process in another location? With another person? Can I do it with technology? Better technology? Zero technology? If the process doesn’t work on paper, it will never work in person. Set yourself up for success by making sure that every system you make can be scaled to the next level with a simple “copy and paste”.

How do we provide support?

The system should be a solution to a problem, but sometimes, the system is the problem. It’s not what happens if the system breaks, it’s what will you do when it breaks? Your volunteer knows how to click the computer screen to check kids into class, but what happens when the computer goes down? Every system needs a team to support it. We like to support with people 3 position levels deep. Volunteer, department contact, vendor contact. When you have support for a system, you become less stressed when trying to “think on your feet”. Come to grips that systems will break and rest in the fact that you have a support system to get it back on track.

Systems break because leaders pay attention to success more than the strategy. Kids outgrow clothes and people outgrow systems. A two-lane highway that opens to three lanes is a wonderful feeling. However, a three-lane highway that goes to two is guaranteed to bring slow downs, brake lights, and frustrated drivers. We check our systems twice a year to ensure that we are up to speed with the people and technology available to us. Start by identifying the “traffic jams” of your culture and allow systems (not people) to be the solution so you can focus on your main thing. The answer you have been looking for may be one question away.