Every System Can Be Improved
You must believe that every system can be improved in order to willingly do all of the work required to document your systems. You must truly understand and believe that there are real benefits to doing so. Even if all of your systems are several times more effective than those of your competitors, you can be assured that there are still improvements that can be made.
Where Do You Start
Once the business owner agrees that they need to document their systems, the hardest question they face is where to start. When asked this, I remind them that the goal of every business is to deliver a consistently high-quality product that meets or exceeds customers’ wants and desires. Then I ask them, “What one area of your business would have the greatest effect on increasing your sales and profits if you were able to improve it? Work on that one first.”
In truth, every system should be put through the systems documentation and improvement process. But start with the most important processes, and work your way through entire list.
The Systems Documentation and Improvement Process
Here’s an outline of the process I am recommending for documenting your systems.
- Write down the purpose of each task.
- Describe what a successful completion of the task looks like.
- Have the employee outline, in detail, every step required to complete the task.
- Identify the decision points. Make a decision tree that documents how the employee reaches a decision.
- List all external information that the employee must have in order to complete the task.
- Working with the employee, describe how the employee’s system affects your customer, both positively and negatively.
- Together, list possible ways the system can be improved to:
- be completed more quickly and at less cost
- make the customer’s experience more enjoyable
- List potential measurement indicators that can be used by management to measure the effectiveness of the system.
- Design a system to capture the data needed to measure results and provide timely management reports.
- List the skills that the employee must have in order to perform this task. Determine who the most logical person is for this task. Should it be shifted to another employee, or eliminated entirely?
- Decide who has the authority to change the final system for this task.
- Decide who and how often the system will be reviewed for possible change, improvement, or elimination.
- Estimate the amount of time it should take to complete this task.
For physical processes, such as assembling a product, I highly recommend recording the task using a video camera and storing it on a private YouTube channel. When a video is added to written instructions, it greatly improves the likelihood of the task being completed accurately.
Notice that the process detailed above starts with writing down the purpose of the task and a listing of what is actually happening now. It gets your employees involved in improving and documenting the system, which is central to getting them to adopt the system.
The key point to understand and communicate to everyone in your organization is that systems are the heart and soul of any successful business. Systems documentation is the only way to ensure that your business is working the way you originally envisioned it, and that you are delivering a consistent experience to your customer.
Now that you see why systems are important and how you can improve them, make the commitment to improving your business.
- The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It by Michael E. Gerber (March 3, 1995)
- Work the System: The Simple Mechanics of Making More and Working Less by Sam Carpenter ( October 1, 2011)