In the chaotic world of small businesses, adapting a systems thinking approach can be the difference between success and failure. This concept, eloquently described in Donella Meadows’ “Thinking in Systems” and echoed in the principles of “Atomic Habits” by James Clear, emphasizes the power of habits as disguised systems. But how do we translate this into a practical, everyday reality in a small business setting?
At the core of every successful small business, whether on purpose or by accident, are incredibly well executed systems with a leader and a team willing and able to continuously improve those systems in service to their customers.
The Power of Habits as Systems
At its core, systems thinking involves seeing beyond individual elements and understanding how these elements interconnect to form a cohesive whole. In a business context, this means recognizing that every habit – whether it’s how we manage time, interact with clients, or handle internal processes – is part of a larger system that shapes our business outcomes.
Cultivating a Systems-Oriented Culture
Inspiring Staff Participation:
Encourage your team to think about and document existing systems. This isn’t just about efficiency; it’s about fostering a “culture of continuous improvement.” The goal is to gradually embed incremental improvements into your company’s ethos.
Establish a simple yet effective system for recording and reviewing processes. This could be a shared digital workspace or regular team meetings focused on systems.
Normalizing Systems Conversations:
Make discussions about systems a regular part of your team’s communication. Encourage open conversations about the value of these systems, addressing concerns like “I can’t do it” or “I don’t believe it will happen.” Show how systems thinking aligns with personal and team goals.
Addressing the Focus Challenge:
For many entrepreneurs, maintaining focus is a significant challenge. Systems help by providing structure, reducing the need for constant decision-making, and preventing the business owner from becoming the sole knowledge keeper.
Rewarding System Creation:
Recognize and reward the creation and improvement of systems. This acknowledgment can help shift the mindset from viewing systems as a chore to seeing them as valuable assets.
Overcoming Resistance to Change
Resistance is natural, especially when it feels like systems might expose vulnerabilities or diminish one’s role. Some enjoy being the center of attention or the go-to problem solver. It’s essential to address these emotional aspects and demonstrate how systems thinking can actually enhance personal effectiveness and job satisfaction.
Empowering Team Members
Delegate the responsibility of documenting and improving systems. This not only distributes the workload but also empowers your team, giving them a sense of ownership and responsibility. It’s a delicate balance of managing risks and rewards, but it can lead to significant growth both for the individuals and the business.
Creating a culture of systems thinking in a small business is not just about implementing new processes; it’s about shifting mindsets and habits. By recognizing the interconnectedness of our actions and fostering a continuous improvement ethos, we can build more resilient, efficient, and successful businesses.
Getting Out of Your Own Way
Most businesses start small without any such form of documentation. In the beginning, the business owner is willing to do everything. They hold most of the operational knowledge, so they’re the constant go-to person for answers. They end up doing the majority of the work because they’re the only one who knows how to do it—and it’s faster to do it themselves than it is to teach someone else. There comes a point when everything is too much for them. They can’t control this thing they’ve created. They’ve lost their freedom.
What if in 2024 you could get that freedom back? What would that look like for you? Have enough money to take the issue of money off the table and the time to enjoy it?
Creating a systems culture starts with you. The work you do or don’t do today will influence the results you get or don’t get tomorrow. To help you out I have marked down my Systematize Your Business Course in January to just $100.00 That is an 80% savings available now. It is one thing you CAN do to make 2024 the best year in business ever.
Make 2024 the year you finally get what you want from your business by creating a culture of systems thinking.
Until next time, enjoy your Entrepreneurial Journey!
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