At a certain point of growth, every business needs to start formalizing "how things are done here". These are your processes and systems.
In "Predictable Success" by Les McKeown, he pretty much says outright that you can't get to predicable success unless you put enough (but not too much) systems and processes in place (plus some other things).
Too many people think formalizing processes and systems means taking all initiative and creativeness out of business and replacing it with lowest common denominator bureaucracy. Or they think it means everything is handled exactly the same. Or they just don't want to be one of those places with rules and believe that you just tell people the goal and let everyone figure out how to get their on their own. If you hire smart people everyone will just get on with their job. Why take the fun out of work.
They avoid discussing, documenting, improving or systematizing processes at all.
Required Sports Analogy
Can you imagine a professional hockey team that never practiced individually or together? Or forgot everything it knew about how to do things before each game and just winged it? (Yes, some teams do seem to forget.)
So what is practice at the elite level?
Practice is is identifying the individual and team skills and techniques that need to be done over and over again… automatically and with minimal thinking.
They are systematizing and automating the things that happen or should happen over and over again. Players no longer need to think about how to do a slap shot. Or how to pass. Or any of the more complex maneuvers and plays that they practice over and over… thousands of times. This gives players and team immense skill to draw upon.
In the game itself the players can draw on what they know automatically. However, the game is too complex to predict every situation and thinking, adapting, initiative and creativity are very important for successful teams to master; but they know they can rely on the core.
Then they play a few games, see what is working and what is not and then adjust their practice and routines to get a better chance of winning in the future.
Back to Business
The key to systematizing your business is NOT to make it rigid and inflexible. It is not to lower everything to the lowest common denominator.
In fact, working on your business (processes and systems) should follow the following steps:
- Identify the key processes and systems,
- Look at how they work today,
- Figure out the most effective way to get predictable results,
- Decide what is rigid and where adaptability is useful,
- Test your process,
- Train everyone in the skills and techniques of the process and enforce until the skills and habits form,
- Monitor and measure,
- Reflect, review and adapt.
Once you understand your processes you can also look at automating or delegating the parts that are repeatable and predictable.
Give your team some leeway to adapt to the current situation. Bring everyone up to the level of your highest performers by leveraging what works, systematizing it and training.
Process, systems and technology are tools to help your people work better; they work for your people. Don't set it up so your people work for your systems.
Above all learn and adapt. Processes and systems are not rigid for all time. Involve the team and other stakeholders into the process of systematization.
Don't develop a policy that punishes everyone because of one case where something doesn't work. Systematization is a balancing act of "just enough" to keep things reasonably predictable while being aware that you can't control everything.
And remember to keep practicing the skills required for the process success and those required to innovate and create to stay competitive as well.
What level of systematization is your organization at? Leave a comment below.