System conditions are important for three reasons:
1. They affect performance (positively or negatively)
2. Rarely can you improve a process without changing the system conditions that surround it
3. They tell you about management thinking – the strongest lever for change
Examples of system conditions:
Measures, management information, roles, feedback systems, performance management systems, process design, structure, information technology, reward systems, management behaviour, regulation, inspection and so on.
While there are many systems conditions, it is only the ‘vital few’ that need to be understood to make substantial change.
It can be confusing to start any study of performance by focusing on an organisation’s system conditions; there are systems thinkers who start there, but Vanguard recommends that you don’t. The Vanguard Method puts studying system conditions at step 5 – it follows having good knowledge of performance, the value work and waste, and thus limits your interest to understanding system conditions as the causes of waste. That’s how you get to the ‘vital few’.