A system is a device we can use to solve a problem. That’s all it is. You have jumped the first hurdle in implementing a system. The hurdle that suggests systems are complex and difficult to understand. There are two more hurdles to address when it comes to systems, that is, that it takes an enormous amount of time to put a system in place and that a system is costly.
In a small to medium sized business there are many of problems to solve but without the safety of an allocated budget to employ a team of people to work on resolving a specific problem in a business. How does the smaller business owner approach problems such as rehiring staff, speeding up invoicing to customers, finding funds for sales offers, building a local presence, and handling debts on loans and credit cards? In many cases the business owner are often personally performing those tasks directly. Attending interviews, working late at night to produce invoices, juggling overdrafts and post messages from their phone on the way to the next meeting. It becomes virtually untenable to continue working as a sole proprietor rather than a leader who oversees the management of a team.
Once it’s identified that there is a major time issue with managing daily tasks there is a cross road or an impasse that is reached. Do I continue doing it all myself or do I hire others and teach them through a central system to do it for me? Let’s challenge the assumption that to be a good business leader you need to know each moving part of a business intimately in order to be able to see the business clearly and manage it as a whole. On the whole most people who are, for example, excellent at sales and people-orientated, may not be as highly skilled and involved in areas such as managing stock levels, scheduling just-in-time customer orders, and quality control of products. Just like we say “there’s an app for that”, there are also systems for that too. Every system must have an objective to reach, a business problem to solve. If the system works then continue with it, if it doesn’t, find a different system. More on different types of systems later.
User friendly systems
When we think of “user friendly” we may break out in a small sweat and worry about how a computer program may or may not work. The main point to remember is that systems are developed by people. If we want them to be friendly we just have to change them to suit us. So, what is a user friendly system?
Systems that suit you
There are systems that you can buy “off the shelf” that are computer based billing systems, payroll managers such as Quickbooks. These can be used straight away in a business with a level of external training.
And there are experts that have already been trained, that you can hire to manage a computer system to control specialist areas such as operations, stock and maintenance. Both of these options are viable to a point, and does require an amount of research and capital expenditure.
An example of simple business systems could be when a business leader taught a staff member how, for example to manage an issue. This could have been invoicing. Once the owner has imparted “their way” the team member writes down notes, take screen shots, list out steps and compile a “how to guide”. The next step is to take a different team member unrelated to the task, and ask them to follow the guide and test out whether they understand the instructions and if the guide is easy to follow.
The above example describes the beginnings of what is the global accreditation system called ISO accreditation, by the International Organisation for Standardization1. The basic premise is that if there is an accessible “how to guide”, mapping out in simple terms, the exact task, and this guide is used by more than two people then it is a “system”. The system then need only be “sense checked” (meaning people questioned it, understood it and it is relevant) and continually improved by the team in the business. This system making tool is low cost, high impact and meets the objective of creating more time to work on the greater issues facing the business. Taking the idea of systems back to the invoicing example the business benefits enormously because after the “tester” understands the guide, they can perform that task well, making two more people fully trained and ready to take on that activity, creating time for the business owner to spend to think of ideas, develop more efficiencies and generally work on their business.
Business Process mapping:
Simple business systems
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