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BSS #006: How to Create Systems for Your Business

It seems like every day there’s someone telling operations leaders and business owners that they need to be creating systems for their business. The problem is that most people quickly feel overwhelmed by the enormity of that and don’t know where to start.

If this is you, keep reading! I’m going to give you a dead-simple framework for creating systems in your business so you can spend less time in the weeds and more time growing your business.

Getting Started

Business systems are a series of processes that may or may not include technology.

The one thing most consultants don’t want you to realize is that you already have several systems working in your business.

You simply need to document what you’re currently doing, identify opportunities for improvement, test improvement ideas, and maybe introduce technology to automate and eliminate waste.

Step 1: Process Map

You’ve got to get a clear picture of what’s happening right now. The best way to do that is by creating a Process Map. This means mapping out each step of your current process from start to finish. For example, let’s say you’re planning to make a cup of coffee to get your day fired up. Your process might look something like this:

Here’s a secret… the tools you use to create this map DO NOT MATTER. My favorite tool is a blank wall and some colored sticky notes.

Don’t have that? Use a pen or pencil and paper. Feel more comfortable behind the keyboard? Use a free cloud-based tool like Diagrams.net (https://www.diagrams.net/).

Use what’s comfortable for you or your team and make your map your own.

Step 2: Process Documentation

Once you’ve created your top-level map, you need to document the details. The key here, just like in the first step, is to keep it simple. Using the example from Step 1, your process documentation might look something like this:

  1. Stage supplies
    1. Grab Filters from the cupboard
    2. Grab Coffee from the cupboard
    3. Grab Cream from the refrigerator
    4. Grab Sugar from the cupboard
    5. Grab Cup from the cupboard
    6. Grab spoon from the drawer
  2. Fill water reservoir
    1. Check to see if it is already full
    2. Grab carafe
    3. Rinse carafe with tap water
    4. Fill the carafe with tap water
    5. Pour water from the carafe into the coffee maker
    6. Place carafe into the correct position for brew
  3. Toss used filter and coffee
    1. Open brew basket lid
    2. Retrieve used supplies and toss
    3. Wipe out the brew basket
  4. Replace the filter and add coffee
    1. Grab a new filter and add it to the brew basket
    2. Measure and add coffee into the filter
    3. Close brew basket lid
  5. Brew Coffee
    1. Turn machine on
    2. Hit the start brew button
  6. Pour into cup
    1. Grab the carafe from the machine
    2. Pour into the cup until the desired level
  7. Add cream
    1. Pour into the cup until the desired level
  8. Add sugar
    1. Pour into the cup until the desired level
  9. Mix well
    1. Grab spoon and stir
  10. Take a drink
    1. Enjoy your hard work

Step 3: Process Improvement

Now that you have a process map and detailed documentation, it’s time to look for improvement opportunities. Look for ways to eliminate waste and make each part of the process more efficient. Remember, whatever changes you decide to make, be sure to document them so that everyone involved is on the same page. This is a part of process mapping that is typically referred to as creating and implementing a “future state”.

Step 4: Technology?

Many people think technology is the answer and that it will solve all of your problems. The truth is, adding technology to poorly designed processes will do more harm than good. You will not see a positive return on your investment and chances are, you will add to the frustration of your team by having to use technology that doesn’t help them.

Technology works best when you have clearly defined business processes that are accomplishing the goal manually. You “layer in” the technology to automate those processes and eliminate waste.

Step 5: Review, Revise, Repeat

The final step in creating systems for your business is to get into a cycle of regular system development and process improvement. As your business grows and changes, so too will your systems. What worked for you six months ago might not work for you today – and that’s okay!

Review what’s working and what’s not. Revise the things that are not working to try new things and do more of the things that are working. Finally, continue to repeat this process as new opportunities for improvement identify themselves through your key performance indicators, customer experiences, and most importantly your team’s experiences.

When you use this simple framework, it will be much easier to start creating systems that free you to drive growth and operate with excellence.

That’s all for today.

See you all again next week.

Dave

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