Start Thinking in Systems, Stop Thinking in Goals

Last week I was asked about my personal goals, what keeps me going at this point in life. My answer was simple: I don’t have any goals. Instead, I have systems that I believe will lead to positive outcomes. I want to help spread the magic of entrepreneurship, and make an impact on the world. My systems will help me do my best, not striving for goals.

Start thinking in systems, stop thinking in goals.

I can control the systems. I can control the effort I put in. I can control where I spend my time.

I can’t control if I hit the goal of creating 100 successful startups. I can’t control if I hit the goal of creating 10,000 high paying jobs.

This type of thinking really crystallized for me while at Pardot when we did our quarterly and annual planning. Yes, we had goals. Yes, we cared about hitting the goals. Only, we couldn’t guarantee that we’d hit the goals. This idea of control, or lack thereof, made me go deeper. Primarily, what can we control?

We can control the required number of sales activities to likely achieve quota.

We can control the on-boarding steps necessary to ensure customers have a successful experience.

We can control the product planning process to ensure the most important enhancements.

So, we set goals and focused our energies on the systems we could control.

When I see goals, and talk to entrepreneurs about their goals, I try to tease apart if the goal is within his or her control. If it isn’t, I work at helping reshape the goal to something that is more controllable, and share the idea about systems.

Control what you can control.

Start thinking in systems.

One thought on “Start Thinking in Systems, Stop Thinking in Goals

  1. This makes a lot of sense, especially during the early stages of a company when there are many unknowns and you have no idea on the probability of hitting goals, as many things are outside of your control.

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