Without Systems Your Vision is Just a Dream


Systems, not vision, determine the sustainability of your dream. This has been a difficult lesson for me to learn, but over the years, I have met many a visionary leader whose dreams grew to a fraction of their potential because of the lack of an environment where the vision could thrive.

Systems vision leadership

Vision must come first in any organization, otherwise systems tend to get a life of their own and become what we hate the most about government: bureaucracy, a means into itself, a self-preserving, self-entitled nothingness.

However, vision without systems is like a train without tracks. In a growing organization, sustainability means understanding strengths, threats, opportunities, trends and how to design organizational culture and procedures to address them. I’ve heard someone put it this way: what determines your product is what happens down the hall and not what’s hanging on the wall.

I’m saddened every time I run into a business, not for profit or church that got the vision part down, but can’t get its systems in place. Unwittingly, they sabotage growth at every turn.

Take a look at your organization. Do you have systems in place that allow for growth or are they keeping it from moving forward?

  • Thanks for the reminder!

  • Yes! Now, my “organization” is my home. That’s my place of “business” {and of course blogging stems from that and has it’s own system–or it should}.

    But this totally applies because we as moms have visions to have smooth running households. Problem is, {myself included}, we have “schedule rebellion” (or system rebellion). We don’t want to “work the system” so our vision can become reality. We rebel against it and wonder why our days do not run smoothly or why we can’t get done what we want.

    I do believe a well-run home exists…it’s those who use the system to reach the goals they have put in place. Thank you!

  • This is exactly where I am right now in growing an online magazine. Any suggestions for more reading on how to create an effective system? I would really appreciate it.

  • Hey Maurilio, great post. Do you have any books you could recommend we read to get a handle on this?
    Thank you so much,

    • I think Andy Stanley talks about this in one of his leadership podcasts, and “The Leadership Pipeline” by Charan, Drotter, and Noel addresses systems for leadership development.

  • Love this!   Very helpful advice – especially for companies who may have a great brand but lack systems to implement.   As with Dave, if you have ideas for resources, we’d love to know, too, what you recommend…

  • Systems thinking and developing relational systems makes for hard work, but I completely agree that this is the place where sustainability lies.

    Systems that allow for growth are people-focused, easily navigable, interconnected with other systems, and constantly developing. But saying it is not the same as creating it. Definitely a huge leadership challenge.

    Have you seen examples of where the systems are developed in partnership with those in the system and those leading the system rather than just from those at the top?

  • So true!  I’ve seen this a lot in my speaking/coaching with organizations and the consulting work that I do.  Love the quote you shared: “what determines your product is what happens down the hall and not what’s hanging on the wall.”

  • Kloybaoman

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  • Rolandgreco

    how do i work on my systems? is it going through every procedure we have in place and making sure they are being used?

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