Each time you tell your team member how to complete a task, it takes up your precious time. In my experience, you might have to repeat instructions 6-10 times before the team member is able to perform the task without being reminded how to. Sometimes, even after it seemed task was learned, I had to verify that it was done correctly as per the company standard. Over the years this became one of my biggest frustrations.
I raised this issue with my mentor/coach and his response was:
“Any repetitive task in the business can be written in the form of‘system’ or ‘process’ – the standard company way of completing the task.” To begin with, I was leery about trying this method, as I had been giving verbal instructions for years and years. But, I was paying the mentor for his advice, so I tried it.
At first, it seemed awkward and simplistic, to write a step-by-step process for team members to complete their tasks as per the company standard. The first time in use the process had missing parts so it needed to be rewritten. By the second rewrite, however, the process became an easy-to-use guide on ‘how to complete the task’. Over time and use, the system should be monitored for how it could be improved so if better describes the process and is easier to understand and use.
Introducing this ‘written process’ to the user required patience and persistence. As with anything new in the office, there was some resistance. However, once the users accepts this written process, they realized how beneficial was to them. The main benefit is that it grants them autonomy: they had an available reference on how to complete the task on their desk, which meant the need to ask for help was less frequent. The written system answered the majority of their questions, thereby giving the users a new found independence in doing their work.
As manager, the system culture gave me countless benefits:
1. less time spent training, so more time for myself
2. tasks were being done consistently and correctly – as per the company standard
3. the frustration of having to repeat and repeat instructions disappeared.
Over time we systematized all tasks in our company. The change was remarkable to me and to the team members. Our company culture improved, client satisfaction increased and the bottom line grew steadily higher.
I recently ran into a former junior team member, who worked in my office for a time and I asked him what he was doing in his new job. He said he was teaching them ‘how to write systems.’
Evidently, this skill stuck!
Occasionally, I talk to my colleagues in business about systems. All of them say they have systems and process through which they run their companies. I ask them if these systems are written in a company standards and policies manual. They usually respond by saying, writing systems is unnecessary and waste of time. I never argue, but I know better.
Unless a system is written, it is not a system!