How to Know Your System is Broken

Systems are vital for everything in our world to run smoothly. We even have built-in systems in our bodies that enable us to live healthy lives. These systems create order and predictability for us unless there is a breakdown within them. In which case, you need to identify what the broken piece is and come to a long-term solution.

How do you know when your system is broken?

First of all, you need to analyze each system you utilize within your organization and determine whether it is a fully functioning practice that embodies the phrase “work smarter, not harder”. To start this analysis you need to be honest with yourself about the functionality of the system.

Ask yourself these four questions: 

Is the system a time waster? 

Does my team avoid the tasks associated with it? 

Is it costing unnecessary money? 

Am I afraid to make a change, even if it would be a more positive outcome?

To illustrate, let’s consider a story of an organization that had a ‘system’ for their timesheets and payroll which was incredibly inefficient and lackluster.

Picture yourself on timesheet day. You enter your time into a modified spreadsheet on your computer, then print it out and physically sign the paper. Next, you take this timesheet to your supervisor for review and approval. It’s then passed along to the department administrative assistant who double-checks the numbers. The timesheet now gets scanned into the personal computer drive of the administrative assistant and emailed to the payroll department. The payroll team prints your timesheet, triple-checks the numbers, and files it into the finance system so it can be accounted for according to the budget. Finally, your timesheet (along with all the others) is sent to the payroll company to have the paychecks processed and delivered back to the payroll department for you to receive.

If you had to describe that process in one word, what would it be? Laborious comes to mind for us!

What was the end result of this timesheet conundrum?

After overcoming the panic of potential change to a “tried-and-true” system, there was progress in communicating with the various departments. The result was overhauling a system that originally took 15 hours to complete, and got it down to 45 minutes.

The bottom line is that we need systems to function and run organizations effectively, but this can only happen when the systems themselves function and run effectively.

Remember that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so take a good hard look at the systems you are currently employing. Ask yourself and your leadership teams those four questions, then be honest in your answers. Communicate openly regarding what’s working and what’s not. Don’t stick a band-aid over the problem and hope for the best. 

Fix what’s broken, fix it for good!

Systems are one of the six main pillars of workplace health we identify and optimize at Akramoff. Have you identified room for improvement in this area for your business? Please reach out to us at for the next step in maximizing workplace health and productivity tailored to your organization’s needs.