Have you ever been frustrated that your staff has ignored the step-by-step systems you created to lead them through a defined process?
Well maybe the problem isn't with your staff, but instead it lies with how you packaged the process you created.
Every successful business system has two layers: the process layer and the format layer.
The process layer consists of the step-by-step process or procedure you've created to complete any given task or process. Think of this like the recipe that your team needs to follow to get the specific result your business needs in that area.
But having a solid process isn't enough. You have to package that process in ways that your team will actually use. Some cook books, like The Joy of Cooking, list a shorthand sequence of steps to follow, and assume the reader has a lot of assumed knowledge about how to interpret the steps to cook the desired meal. But what if you are a novice cook? Or simply not familiar with all the assumed knowledge a particular recipe calls for? This is where the second layer of your systems comes into play.
The format layer deals with how you package and present your system to your team. Systems should be easy to use, transparent so that team members intuitively understand how to use them, and automated to an extent that much of the work happens via technology instead of manual work.
Would the cookbook be easier to follow if it has pictures? Or a footnote of all the ingredients? Or even a short video of key steps for you to watch and model?
How do you know if your system has a good, useable format? There is one, simple question to give you this answer: Is your team using it?
Your team wants to do a good job. If your business systems are simple, intuitive and effective, they will use them. If they're confusing, complicated, or cumbersome, they'll ignore your systems, even creating their own "cheat sheet" hybrid versions instead. These homespun, individual hybrids normally aren't scalable; in fact, they usually only work for that one team member and only as long as the volume of your business stays relatively level. Plus, even if these private shortcuts work, rarely are they ever captured in a way that the rest of your business can use.
Here is a quick list of 32 potential formats for you to package your systems to make them easier and more effective for team members to use.
4. Custom forms
5. Written guidelines
6. Step-by-step instructions
7. Software that automates a process
8. Merge documents with pre-done data entry fields
9. Databases of key information
10. Pricing lists
11. Templates and samples
12. Written policies
13. Common Q&A sheets
14. Written "warnings" for an area, providing how to deal with predictable problems
15. Spreadsheets with built-in formulas
16. Camera-ready artwork
17. Filing system (paper or electronic)
18. Pre-approved vendors lists
19. Standardized equipment and parts
20. Online communication tools for effectively sharing information (discussion forums, wikis, whiteboards, social networks, etc.)
21. Delivery timetables
22. Job or role descriptions
23. Instructional videos
24. Illustrative picture or diagram
25. Budget templates
26. Automated data back ups
27. Project management software with reusable project pathways
28. Reporting templates
29. Organizational charts
30. Pre-approved forms and contracts
31. A timeline or Master Calendar
32. Complete enterprise management software
You now have a list of the building blocks of successful business systems.
Every time you or one of your staff create a process, take a moment and ask what format would most effectively capture that process to make it easiest for your other team members to use it to generate the desired result.
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