One of the biggest sources of waste in a business is the misalignment of process steps, system outcomes, and desired outcomes. When things are misaligned, everything takes longer than it should. This costs you more money to get things done, makes things slower, and reduces the ability to scale your business.
Alignment of process steps and the systems within a business is easier than it sounds and can bring immediate and long-term benefits to you and your business.
Starting with Ultimate Outcomes
The place to start in this exercise is with the Ultimate Outcomes you have for you and your business. If you’ve already done this, go ahead and skip to the next section. If not, now is a great time to start!
Ultimate Outcomes are the things you ultimately want out of your business. Everything you could possibly want can be grouped into one of three categories: Money, Time (or freedom to do), and Personal Fulfilment.
Money is self-explanatory. There are no magical meanings here… we’re talking about cash.
Time is all about you having more time to do the things you really want to do whether that’s travel, sit around with your kids, spend more time on hobbies, or anything else you want to do with your time.
Personal Fulfilment covers all of the more personal reasons you might have started your business. For some, it’s planting trees or saving the Amazon. For others, it’s helping others that are growing up in similar situations without much opportunity. Maybe you want to build libraries or drinking wells or power stations. This covers anything where you feel a desire to do things that make you feel better about yourself and/or the world you live in.
There are some important nuances here to understand.
First, when you define these for yourself and your business, you must be brutally honest with what you really want. If you don’t want to save orphans, don’t tell yourself you want to save orphans. You’re going to be aligning everything you do in your business to these Ultimate Outcomes and if you aren’t honest with yourself about what you really want, you’ll be aligning your business to things you don’t want. If you’re successful at reaching the outcomes you want, you’ll get things you don’t actually want.
Second, there is no right answer here. Your answer is personal and could include any one, two, or all three of these outcomes.
Last, note that there is a relationship between these three things. A way to get more time is to get more money so that you can hire a housekeeper to clean your house so you don’t have to. You could donate money to a charity that gives you personal fulfillment. You could also donate your time. Call these out separately (so if you wanted to plant trees by buying land and planting trees, don’t just say you want money).
Understanding of your Business in Systems
The next important piece to aligning systems across your business is to make sure you have gone through the process of defining the important systems in your business.
If you’ve already done this, you can skip ahead! If not, here’s a quick lesson.
Think about the core things that your business does. You should have between 4-12 things that your business does at this first level.
If you’ve ended up with three or fewer, think a little bit deeper about what you do. For example, if you said your business does three things: Gets traffic, converts traffic, and delivers products, you’re missing a couple of key systems that you have but you’re not thinking about. How do you manage payments from Customers? Can you break up “Gets traffic” into a few subsystems (What are the three things you do to get traffic?)?
If you’ve ended up with more than 12, try and come up a little bit in your thinking. Combine like activities into one thing e.g. if you listed separate systems for six different ad platforms, combine that for now into “running ads” as one system even if each platform has distinct steps.
Aligning System Outcomes with Each Other
Each of these systems should have one or more desired outcomes. This is where the alignment can start to happen – ask yourself a few questions now.
Do the desired outcomes of each of the systems align or conflict with the desired outcomes of other systems?
Is there a system or systems that need help from another system that is missing?
What are the biggest opportunities to help a system that’s struggling?
What’s the next system to build (i.e. what’s the next thing you want your business doing that it’s not doing today?
Answering these questions is going to help you to identify at a system level where you have opportunities to apply systems thinking to improve the alignment of different systems within your business. You’ll be able to see gaps between systems that are causing issues in your business and where you should prioritize additional efforts.
Aligning Outcomes to the Ultimate Outcomes
Another view to take on your systems is to look at the alignment of individual system desired outcomes with the desired Ultimate Outcomes of the business.
You can ask the same question asked previously around conflict. Is there any conflict between a system’s desired outcomes and the desired Ultimate Outcomes you want from the business?
Does the desired outcome of each system have a clear path to your desired Ultimate Outcomes? Some systems might require hops to get there that are supported by other systems (e.g. a traffic system’s outcomes will need the conversion system’s outcomes to turn into money).
Are there gaps between any of the systems and the desired Ultimate Outcomes?
Are there systems that don’t actually contribute to your desired Ultimate Outcomes?
These questions will give you a different perspective on things missing from or out of alignment in your business. You’ll gain new perspectives on what work you need to do now to get better outcomes from your business.
Aligning System Components to System Outcomes
Once you’ve aligned at the system level, you can dive into any system in your business and start aligning smaller process steps with the individual system.
This requires a little bit more work in mapping out the process steps, inputs, and outputs of each of your system, but oftentimes the work to map out how a system currently works provides you with some quick fixes you can make to see improvements in a short period of time.
When it’s all done, you’ll have inputs, process steps, and outputs that are aligned with the system’s desired outcomes. You’ll have systems that are aligned with the other systems in your business. Everything you’re doing in any part of any system will be aligned to the desired Ultimate Outcomes you have for your business, giving you more of what you want and less of what you don’t want.
As usual, if anything was unclear or if you have further questions, you can reach me via DM or email and I’ll be happy to add some clarity.