The Obvious and Not so Obvious of Systems

Teamwork of businesspeople

Where there is a will, there is a way…where there is a way there is a system that found the way!

Systems have a function that generally solve existing problems or prevent problems from arising. And we certainly know when a system is not in place due the chaos that can show up in the workplace or in life…image transport without traffic control systems whether it is road, rail, sea or air!

Systems are the control centres and they can fit into two categories:

  1. The Obvious: These are the systems we know and use because they work and we also know when they need updated. For example, Payroll systems are usually a collection of sub systems such as clocking on and off, rosters, payroll processing and payroll payment. We definitely know when they are working or not…people are dependent on this one to be paid correctly and on time whether the systems used are electronic or manual.
  1. The Not Obvious: These are the systems that operate automatically and can be based on intuition because they have been used over and over again whether they get the results we want or not. For example, a Not Obvious system is being used when someone says “It’s common sense.”

So Not Obvious systems are great for small, personal goals or methods of doing a task that is not critical or moderately important in itself. They can be quick to resource and do not necessarily rely on another person to be involved.

But as soon as it does involve someone else and/or the importance of a goal or task becomes then the more the system needs to more to the Obvious. Because the Not Obvious system is located in the minds of the system holder, it will hinder the transferring of information if it stays there! It needs to be shared and the clearest way to do that is to make it Obvious to everyone invloved.

  1. Be proactive in recognising when the shift from Not Obvious to Obvious is required: You’ll know this if:
    1. The outcome wanted involves more than one person.
    2. There is miscommunication between people involved
    3. People are doing ‘their own thing’, which distracts or digresses from the original idea.
    4. The process is having more hiccups than expected, delaying the final outcome.
  2. With others involved, get clear on the outcome that is wanted.
    1. Be clear on why it is important
    2. What else has an impact on this outcome?
    3. What does this outcome impact on?
  3. Plan and Review
    1. Outline the steps to be taken
    2. Benchmark the steps e.g. timeframes, outputs, standard of quality etc.
    3. Check in regularly on progress and adjust where needed
    4. Communicate any changes

Knowing when to move from a Not Obvious to Obvious seems like such a common sense thing to do and it is.

Yet so many people in the workplace do not do it. Or they do part of it but do not get to completion. Then it’s like:

  • ‘Why did I bother?’
  • ‘Some people can’t be trusted to get on with their jobs.’
  • ‘We always start things but don’t seem to finish them.’

Well, if this is you, then there is help available to move systems from Not Obvious to Obvious. All you need to do is contact Diane Gray at

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