Systems Work, People Fail?

systems work people fail

I remarked this headline while surfing a few pages. Not a new idea either. But somehow this time it intrigued me more.

“Systems work, people fail” suggests that if you follow a (successful) system, you will succeed, otherwise you WILL fail. Which sometimes is true, but not always, and definitely lacking the certainty to lead to such a blunt conclusion.

Hasn’t history taught us anything?

We needed well over one and a half millennia and the death or silencing of a few brilliant minds to start understanding and accepting that the geocentric model (a.k.a. Ptolemeic system) was wrong. Slavery is still practiced in some parts of the world, but fortunately abolished mostly everywhere else. At the state level, Nazism is gone and communism lost its breath, with the notable exception of China and a few small countries. Nowadays we have so many examples of smaller or larger systems that failed ‘inexplicably’, barely work or are on the verge of collapse. But I’d rather stop this enumeration here.

These were all systems that ‘worked’ and many people embraced. Yet they failed. The systems failed, not the people who used them. So systems are not infallible.

Some may argue that people who create the systems or change them fail, not the systems themselves. And it’s a great argument. But, in this case both the systems and their creators fail, but not the people who use the systems.

In defense of the systems: we need them. Systems add structure to our societies, and sometimes to our own lives.

In case of a failure, there are two possibilities: you failed or the system failed. You can’t just assume one or the other.

If you automatically blame the system when something goes wrong, then it is very possible that you failed, and took the easy way out, without realizing you may have failed yourself, not the system.

On the other hand, if all people would follow systems without questioning them, how would progress come? Visionaries often challenge existing systems.

I see people and systems as a pair. They must fit together in order to work, or this dual mechanism will inevitably fail at some point, without necessarily a party to blame. Just the misfit between the two.

We generally need people to create systems (although now computers can create systems in many areas). Systems work as they are ‘told’ to. But when conditions change or new variables appear, they often fail, if they are not updated. Sometimes an old system cannot be updated, it just needs to be replaced entirely. People are more adaptable to changing conditions, but are likely to fail to stay consistent with the tasks needed to make a system work. Like going to gym three times a week and eat healthy food if they want to stay in shape. Or keep building their businesses through the valleys of bad times.

In conclusion, both the systems and people can fail. And both can work, if we have the right combination of people and system — at the right time —, and the latter is kept updated to the latest realities. This dual mechanism has a great chance to work. Until either the system becomes obsolete or people evolve to a different stage in their lives.

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About Adrian
Creator of, I enjoy working from home and having a flexible schedule. My mission: to grow myself, then teach and help others to step up and inspire them to offer help at their turn.

4 Comments on Systems Work, People Fail?

  1. Very interesting post Adrian. Lots of food for thought. When I look at this issue I tend to view this on a marketing viewpoint. Marketing systems work for some people and not others. Quite often we are made to feel inadequate because others have done really well with a particular system. In other words, we failed, not the system. Quite often this is the measure the system sends to you. You failed brother. Hang your head.

    What a horrible thing to say to someone. Systems carry inherent flaws. No system is perfect for every human being. Systems ultimate are human creations, even if computer generated.

    No system can account for all variations.
    We need to understand that.

    Instead of pointing the failure finger at some human being, it’s better to understand that some aspect of the system did not serve them.
    It’s not a right or wrong.

    We tend to think of systems as mechanics, get the mechanics right and they will serve. But human beings aren’t mechanical systems.

    A system that is designed to liberate human capacity and creativity and potential, those are the systems of our future. Unlike current systems that require a human being to bend and contract and limit themselves in order to fit into the system. Most(but not all) corporate structure is like this.
    A great example of that, is our educational systems designed for an era that no longer exists. Determined even now to bend and shape and mold rather that liberate.

    Still lots there to chew on as you can see Adrian. Thanks for stirring the grey matter.

    Nicholas Grimshawe recently posted…5 Ways to Generate an Endless Stream of Ideas

  2. Thank you for adding such an awesome value through your comment, Nick!

    Yes, the headline I saw and which I based my blog post upon, was from a marketing viewpoint. But marketing should not lose touch with reality, should it?

    Yes, I agree, individuals are unique and, as much as possible they should be treated (and treat themselves) as such.

    But there are systems that cannot be scaled down to the individual level, I think. Not at our level of evolution. We can’t build a health system that revolves around the individual person, instead of apparatuses or pathologies.

    Yeah, I also agree that we often view systems wrong as a mechanical thing, that can be learned, then they should work. We humans are certainly different and change. Which means the systems need to be as adaptable and less coercive (can you imagine now a less coercive tax system?) as possible.

    School systems were also on my list as a debate, but I decided not to add them. I also think they are outdated. Well, more outdated in some parts of the world than in others. We should be careful though to not switch from one extreme to the other, and ‘force’ creativity out of pupils. I have some amount of creativity in some areas, but I still remember my first failure in school, which was in arts. You used the right word. We need to ‘liberate’ creativity and potential, which is completely different from either ‘repressing’ it, or ‘forcing’ it out.

    Thanks again for dropping by, Nick!
    Adrian Gurgui recently posted…On Positive and Negative Thinking

  3. Tony Matyasovszky // May 18, 2017 at 4:12 pm //

    I agree with you 100%.I have been in home based business’s in the past and now it’s network marketing.people always ask me how I do the things I do to succeed and earn the way I do.I tell them and they say yeah right. I show them proof and then they say wow! Then I ask them if they are interested? Oh that won’t work.It works if you make it can earn and then show your friends and family. this was a great topic

  4. Thanks Tony. Systems will show results for some and not for others, and timing is also a factor here. But yeah, in whatever system we can think of, to succeed, OUR PART as humans is to do the hassle. If it wouldn’t require the grind work to make it work, then it wouldn’t really be a system and everyone would be successful in following it. Can you imagine what a boring world would be if everyone would be successful (or the reverse, failures)? We don’t really need or have an entire system to brush our teeth, because it’s a simple action. But it is a habit, and you know what happens if we don’t. :o
    Adrian Gurgui recently posted…3 Powerful Tips For Experienced Bloggers

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