NCET explores business and technology
By Peter Williamson
You’ve probably heard how important systems/processes are to your business, and most likely you have lots of systems now. Examples might include how you market, sell, deliver your product/service, do your accounting and so forth. And if you’re like most business people, you may have run into some process/system challenges. Here’s a few symptoms: You get asked the same questions, over and over; you keep dealing with the same mistakes; you find yourself asking “How the heck did that happen?” or you find yourself doing things that you hate doing but you have to because…
Sometimes these things happen because it turns out there really was an exception, something that had never happened before. But often these issues pop up because the system wasn’t working or wasn’t being followed. Here are a few tips for getting your systems to stick.
First, tailor the system documentation and training to your teams’ learning style. Most people have a primary learning style – visual, auditory or kinesthetic. The visuals will do best with pictures or videos.
The auditory folks will learn best by talking it through. And the kinesthetic team members learn by doing, by hands-on experience, preferably in a practice environment. So, evaluate your team’s learning styles, then document and train accordingly. One key point here – a binder full of black and white text may work as a reference, but is usually a weak training tool.
Second, test out your process. That’s obvious, but the key here is how you do it, or more importantly, who you use to test it. Try to find someone who has nothing to do with the process. We can easily leave little things out when we create our systems. It’s not surprising – often the person that is documenting the process knows it so well that it’s second nature to them. They’ve forgotten what they’ve learned, so they leave something out and then the resulting system breaks down. This is especially true with new employees using the system.
Third (and often most challenging) – be the re-enforcer. If team members come to you with questions, send them back to the process. Yes, it might appear quicker and easier to just answer the question. But doing so dooms you to two issues – answering the question again in the future, and undermining the process discipline of your organization. So, send them back to the system, and tell them if they don’t find the answer there, to bring back a couple of ideas on how to handle it so you can both pick one together and update the system. This little investment of time will result in solid, documented systems that work.
The result: you’ll have a stronger, systems driven business, not a people dependent business.
Peter Williamson is Business Coach and Master Licensee at ActionCOACH, and NCET’s VP of Tech Wednesday. NCET is a member-supported non-profit that produces educational and networking events to help people explore businesses and technology.