Achieving Success Through a System-Oriented Approach

Scott Willson

In today’s fast-paced world, businesses and I.T. organizations must constantly adapt and evolve to remain competitive. Information Technology (I.T.) plays a crucial role in this process, as technology is at the heart of almost every business operation. Focusing on a system-oriented approach rather than just goals can help I.T. teams achieve successful outcomes more consistently than focusing on goals alone.

Focusing On Systems Rather Than Goals

The importance of focusing on systems rather than goals in IT lies in the fact that it’s easy to think technology is the answer rather than an enabling component of success. It’s not just about implementing a specific software solution or achieving a particular outcome but about developing a holistic approach to a system that continually supports the organization’s ability to meet its goals and objectives consistently. A system-oriented approach focuses on building the infrastructure, processes, best practices, and people necessary to create a flexible and agile team culture that consistently achieves high levels of success.

Advantages of a System-Oriented Approach

One of the key advantages of focusing on a systems-oriented approach is that it helps I.T. teams create sustainable and adaptable practices that drive the desired outcomes. Successful sports teams have recognized this. For example, every NFL team may want to win the Super Bowl, but winning games or championships are outcomes of successful execution against a set of best practices or processes. A system-oriented approach involves working backward from a desired outcome or end state and identifying the key methods, techniques, technology, and components required to achieve the desired goal. A system-oriented approach shifts the focus from a future state to a now state that can more easily be understood and impacted – for example, improving daily/weekly habits. For example, a company might identify that data security is critical to its operations and build a center of excellence that includes firewalls, encryption, and regular security audits. By focusing on a system or the habits of security best practices, the company can ensure that its data remains secure over the long term rather than just implementing a specific security measure in response to a temporary threat.

Another advantage of a system-oriented approach is that it enables IT teams to be more flexible and adaptable. Technology constantly evolves, and a system-oriented approach allows I.T. teams to adjust their systems to keep up with changing requirements. For example, a company might adopt a new cloud-based platform to improve collaboration and efficiency. With a system-oriented approach, the I.T. team can focus on building a system that integrates the new platform into the company’s existing infrastructure rather than just focusing on achieving the specific goal of implementing the platform. In other words, you are no longer adopting technology for technology’s sake but leveraging technology to empower or improve your teams’ performance and culture.

Focusing On Today Rather Than Tomorrow

Focusing on a systems-oriented approach also helps I.T. teams prioritize the organization’s needs over the needs of individual projects. In a goal-oriented approach, the emphasis is on achieving specific outcomes, often at the expense of the underlying culture and pervasive habits. In contrast, a system-oriented approach recognizes that each project is part of a more extensive system and aims to create an environment that supports the organization’s overall goals. By prioritizing a system over a tool or individual project, I.T. teams can ensure that all projects are aligned with the organization’s strategic objectives and that the modus operandi of any team is built to support consistent success.

A system-oriented approach also helps to create a culture of continuous improvement within the I.T. team. By focusing on the system, I.T. teams can identify areas for improvement and implement changes that lead to more effective and efficient processes and practices. For example, an I.T. team might identify that their help desk system is causing delays in addressing user issues. With a system-oriented approach, the team can analyze the problem, identify potential solutions, and implement changes that streamline the help desk process. By continually looking for ways to improve the system, the I.T. team can create a culture of innovation and collaboration that will result in meeting the organization’s overall goals.


Finally, a system-oriented approach helps I.T. teams to prioritize the need to empower people’s success over the needs of technology. In I.T., a goal-oriented approach can easily place emphasis on achieving something with technology. In contrast, a system-oriented approach recognizes that success is ultimately about people and aims to leverage technology to enrich and enhance behavior. By focusing on the system, IT teams can build a culture and process that meet the high standard of continual success.

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