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Is Your System Foolproof ?

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February 26, 2020

We are well past the date when most New Year’s Resolutions fail (January 19th), yet we’ve entered the time of year when your seemingly food proof system for success starts to break.  If you’re like me, you start to regret not better organizing your financial docs for tax time, or wonder if, perhaps, your 2020 goal setting was a bit ambitious. 

Craig Groeschel’s recent talk offers an interesting insight:  “we don’t rise to the level of our goals, we fall to the level of our systems.”  On this point, he suggests the following formula:

In non-mathematical terms, good systems result from accountability over organizational behavioral expectations, rewards and corrections.  So this week, we’re using this equation to learn how to foolproof organizational structure for sustainable success.

Mind readers

I’m sure you’ve encountered the folks who communicate with an assumption that you are psychic or can read minds like Professor X. Perhaps you are that person. While a significant percentage of interpersonal communication is non-verbal, when we fail to clearly articulate our expectations, particularly in organizational settings, we set ourselves up for failure.  Thus, foolproof systems cannot be based on mind reading. 

For example, expectations within the VCM team are values driven; we expect excellence, empathy and intentionality to imbue our daily work and decision. As VCM, our Community Credo, sets expectations concerning the interactions and desired cultural norms for publicly facility convening, like the #ThursdayGathering. 

Suffice to say, writing a mission statement, or posting it on a wall is not enough. As leaders, the HOW we establish and communicate expectations matters more.

Marshmallow Fantasy

If you’ve studied psychology or leadership development, then it’s likely you’re familiar with the famous Marshmallow Test ( in that case, feel free to skip down a sentence or two!).  The optimal evaluation of mental fortitude , this exercise also speaks to the dynamic between instant reward and delayed gratification. 

In any team environment, whether big or small, we ought to regularly reward when due.  Waiting until, say, annual, bi-annual or even quarterly review time is often too little, too late.  While practicing at a mid-sized law firm, I used to loathe the weekly KUDOS email that more often than not catalyzed an arbitrage of reply-all “congrats” “kudos” “amazing” email co-signs.  Now, I keenly recognize the value of practice.  HOW we reward impacts culture and overall morale. rewarding outstanding behavior provide a signal and instructional guide of what actions are aligned with expectations and will indeed garner recognition.  While internal drive and grit are essential employee qualities, do not discount the import of external validators and acts of appreciation.

Spare the Rod

Remember the holiday classic Home Alone?  Well you’re likely to have a Kevin Arnold on your hands without establishing a process for correcting counter-cultural behaviour.  I’m not referring to implementing a formal HR procedure, rather, correction starts with a clear organizational design.  Why? Culutre is a product of organization design  and essential tool in course correcting behaviour.

Culture, which Peter Drucker suggests, eats strategy for breakfast, is actually a complex organism comprised of many facets including but not limited to strategy, structure, systems, processes, people, vision, values, impact.


Pingboard offers a detailed summary of the evolution of organizational design models, from McKinsey’s 7S model and Strategy&’s DNA Approach to BCG’s Smart Design framework.  Ultimately, however, corrective tactics are intertwined with culture.  


Leigh-Ann / Venture Cafe Miami

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