Systems warning!

There is often a perception that a procedures manual is something that must be “done”. That is, it is somehow like a project with a start and end date.

 This is NOT how it should be approached.

Systems should have a life as long as they are effective – and that effectiveness should be challenged and tested at every opportunity. Systems are, in fact, the single best opportunity to improve the way the business operates – provided there is a culture of challenge to existing systems.

Over time, there are all kinds of circumstances that will require a change in the way the business operates. They may be external factors, such as a change in the way a supplier invoices or delivers stock; they may be internal resulting from new technology; or they could be simply a better way that someone has come up with, for improved service delivery to our customers.

Systems and procedures are always a work in progress.

So the process should be a commitment to complete a procedures manual AND a process that ensures continual review of the systems contained within the manual.

Business owners sometimes  question the necessity for documented systems and processes. For a start, every business has systems; in small businesses, they are unfortunately, rarely documented. Where this is the case, the business owner often complains that “people do not do as I want” and “whenever I am away, the place falls to pieces”.

The reason for systems needs to be explained:

  • So that the customer can be assured of a consistent level of service
  • So that several, rather than a single person can carry out tasks
  • So that people can take holidays and the business continues to offer that consistency of service.

Then the people who have the primary accountability for a process need to have major input into designing those systems. If systems are imposed on them from above, they have plenty of “wriggle room” when things go wrong. On the other hand, if they are given responsibility for systems design, they have ownership and therefore, accountability for the outcomes.

Think of the benefits from a complete set of systems and processes:

  • Improved customer service
  • It is easy for other people to take over unfamiliar roles
  • The business has improved operational efficiency
  • The asset value is improved as a result.

OK, there is value in having a complete procedures manual however, as is pointed at the beginning, it is never finished. There will always be a need to refine, adjust, add to even delete systems over time. For further support of this principle, I suggest a Google search of the business guru Tom Peters who has an excellent YouTube video “Go to War on Your Systems”.

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What John Matthew believes about small business

That the owner has risked many things that others take for granted;

That there is no guaranteed income or reward for the considerable effort that is required;

That often, the family home is on the line to support the business and its constituents;

That there is a dignity and self-respect that is earned;

That entire communities would be better places if there was an increased appreciation and respect for small business.

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