Most of us run our lives on a handful of systems. Whether it’s a cell phone programmed with all of your contacts, a calendar that you’d be lost without, or a specific way you manage email, you’ve probably grown reliant on certain ways of organizing time or information.
Yet, as important as these systems are to us personally, most of us don’t take full advantage of what systems can mean for our businesses.
To identify business processes ideal for systematization, step back and ask yourself the following:
Where are our frustrations?
This is an important test for two reasons. First, you are more likely to be frustrated if you are redoing tasks that bring no particular satisfaction. Second, you are going to be frustrated if you have to relearn a task or “recreate the wheel” every time a specific need comes up.
What holds us back from achieving key goals?
Do you need to generate more prospects? Do you have prospects but a low rate of conversion? Do you convert customers but lose them through poor follow-through? Strategically thinking through your operations in this manner will help you spot high-value opportunities for systemization.
What tasks cause the most stress?
Is it preparing for the quarterly performance reviews? Finalizing your printed catalog? Preparing for your annual make-or-break tradeshow? Systematizing at least part of these stress-inducing activities could yield big benefits to your business—and your well-being.
What do we have to do over and over?
What are the odds that you’ll be doing a specific task again in the future? How often does it have to happen? How much time do you have to invest in getting the process rolling every time? To the extent that you can minimize re-learning time in recurrent activities, systematization will be well worth the effort.
Does anyone else know how to do this?
If something were to happen to you or a key member of your team, are there mission-critical tasks that could not be performed by others? The longer you or your staff members have been on the job, the more likely it is that institutional knowledge is stored in your heads. Systematization decreases the risk to your business caused by an unplanned absence.
Once you’ve identified where systems could help, start documenting what you know about each process. Often, you will find that the simple act of writing down the steps is all that is required. The next time the need arises, you’ll be able to pull out the file and eliminate any re-learning curve.
However, there’s also the possibility that documenting your steps will help you discover inefficiencies that can be fixed or automated, as well as delegation options that were previously unrecognized. With processes documented clearly, you can objectively analyze how the work needs to be performed and who is best qualified to do it. In this way, systems created now will pay off for many years to come. IBI