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.