Team Leaders' Resource Library

***For Karl McCracken's personal (mainly triathlon) blog, please visit This blog is an alternative way for you to get access to our TeamTips series of articles. TeamTips is a short, fortnightly article that's aimed at TeamLeaders. Each edition covers a subject that's important for Team Leaders' performance - both in technical issues and man-management.

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Thursday, August 17, 2006

Systemise or Die (3)

What Next? More About Systemising.

This edition of TeamTips is concerned with the performance-management side of Team Leadership. There are three things you can do if you’re interested in finding out more about this:

1. Read a Book
We recommend “The E-Myth Manager”, by Michael Gerber. People think that Gerber’s all about franchising, but he’s not. His core message is to systemise, and E-Myth is without a doubt one of the best business books I’ve ever read.

2. Think About Firm’s Who’ve Systemised
Corporations like McDonalds (never mind the food / ethics - just admire their beautiful system!), Xerox, and Dell. But it’s not just for huge firms - systemising also works for small companies like twentyfirst century media, onebestway, and of course, Sevenrings ;-)

3. Call Sevenrings
We’ve helped dozens of individuals and organisations improve their performance through systemising, and we’d be happy to talk to you about your particular situation at no initial charge.

We specialise in helping people to get better results by changing the way they work. We can provide training from 1/2 day taster sessions focusing on just one aspect of the Team leader’s role, up to comprehensive programmes over several months.

Our phone number is 0191 2522 335.

No podcast this week - I'm off on holiday!

Systemise or Die (2)

Seven Tips For Systemising

1. “But What We Do Can’t Be Systemised.”
Few companies have the luxury of Ford’s 1920’s production line, where everything was standardised. At the detail level, everything can seem bespoke. But without exception, if you take just one step back, you’ll see stable, repeatable patterns in what people do. Put it this way, if highly creative firms like onebestway and twenty first century media can systemise, then so can you.

2. Three Functions In A Cycle
Jan Grieveson (old page, but the content's right) says that every business or department does three basic things. Getting the work in (sales, scheduling, planning), doing the work (operations, production, service delivery), and checking if it was worth the effort (accounts, performance measurement). Start with these building blocks.

3. Draw A Picture
Get a BIG sheet of paper, and with your team, sketch out the sequence of activities that complete the Three Function Cycle. Break the cycle into broad processes - e.g. Lead generation; proposal writing; making product type A; delivering service type B, etc.

4. Discuss The Picture
Add detail - as much as you can! Things like feedback loops, what information is required at each stage, how decisions are made, how things are communicated.

5. What Can Possibly Go Wrong?
Rank each of your broad processes for how frequently you or any other team member has to do something outside of the norm in order to fix a problem. Consider the cost (time and money) and frequency of problems.

6. Start With The Worst.
Design a system for the worst process. Document this with a flow diagram, and design any forms that are needed to standardise the information captured / used. Paper forms are fine - just remember to define where they get stored, who uses them, and how long they’re kept.

7. Work Through The Rest . . . and Start Again
Design systems for each of your processes, making sure you involve your team. Remember, you can’t do everything at once, but over time, you’ll create a system that all but runs itself, dramatically improving productivity.

Find out more about systemising in the final section of this article.

Systemise or Die (1)

Why Systemising's Important.

If you’ve ever had people directly reporting to you, sooner or later, you’ll be struck by the completely bananas things they’ll do!

Things like . . .
  • Making mistakes in the simplest of tasks
  • Getting caught making improper use of equipment.
  • Avoiding responsibility when things go wrong.
  • Forgetting who ultimately takes responsibility (you).
  • Paying lip service to making improvements.
Many managers fall into the trap of believing that they can learn better ‘people skills’ to overcome these kinds of problems. And it’s true that a little improvement in interpersonal communication can work wonders. But ultimately, without a system, you’ll spend more and more time sweating those ‘people skills’.

Because the problem is that you can never manage people. They’re just too complex and independent to be controlled by your winning personality alone.

But you CAN manage a system - especially if it’s one that’s designed robustly to deliver exactly what your customers want, AND it takes account of the people who’ll operate it. Do this, and you’ll be able to deliver consistently exceptional value and performance - to your customers, to your employees /staff / team, to your suppliers, to investors, and to yourself.

Develop systems that work, and you’ll be well on your way to a stress-free life. One in which you can can have confidence in your team’s performance, so you can get on with leading.

Seven Tips on Systemising in the next posting.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Finding Time AAC Version

This is an AAC version of the podcast to accompany our article about finding the time to get around to the things you know you should be doing. Download this version if you use iTunes or an iPod to listen to podcasts on - it's less than half the size of the MP3 version. Just click on 'update podcasts' in your iTunes podcasts folder to download this programme.

Finding Time MP3 Version

This is an MP3 version of the podcast to accompany our article about finding the time to get around to the things you know you should be doing. Download this version if you DON'T use iTunes or an iPod to listen to podcasts on. Just click on this post's title to download the MP3 file.