Establishing document systems and processes
With growth comes growing pains. Such pains can affect team morale as well as your margins. It’s critical to preempt potential friction and put systems in place to ensure you scale up with minimal disruption.
It’s essential that you regularly review your business’s systems and have clearly documented processes in place - for consistency, efficiency, and so that you can delegate more responsibilities to your team.
Nine steps to establish great systems:
1. Identify your key systems.
Focus on documenting your most critical processes first. These may be customer focused, those where only one person knows how to perform the task, the tasks currently causing the most friction, or those preventing you from being paid on time.
2. Develop a standardised approach to documenting your systems.
Document processes from start to finish in a concise, logical, and visual way. Start with diagrams or flowcharts, as they’re easier to digest, then embellish each step with text. Where necessary, include ‘how to’ guides, checklists, and templates (such as welcome letters or customer response email templates) within each system to ensure consistency and efficiency.
3. Break down each step into bite sized pieces.
If an overarching process requires touch from multiple team members, ensure the process includes the necessary communication points (so ‘Person B’ knows it’s time to do their piece), and that it’s clear which role has overall responsibility for completing the process.
4. Clearly label and store your procedural documents.
Your team needs to be able to access and execute procedures fast. Online document storage is best (the trees will thank you).
5. Identify the best person to draft each process.
If it’s a finance task, it’s likely someone within the Finance department should draft the system. This need not be a highly onerous task for the business owner, however, taking time to review these will save time and reduce rework in future.
6. Test the process!
Unless it involves learning how to use software, a new team member should be able to pick up a procedure and perform a task with little or no support.
7. Team training.
Include relevant procedures in new team member induction and make it clear to your team that they’re expected to follow the system. If mistakes are made, blame the system, not the person… and improve the system.
8. Review the process!
Regularly review and update your systems to ensure they’re still best practice. Empower the team to ‘own’ the systems they use and encourage them to drive improvements. Resist the urge to dictate how things must work, as those using the systems will have a better understanding of improvement opportunities.
9. Consider what can be automated or streamlined.
Technology is moving at a rapid pace. Encourage the ‘techies’ in your team to suggest automation opportunities, apps, or software solutions that could help your business scale better. A small investment could lead to a massive time saving - time is money!
“Speed is useful only if you are running in the right direction.” - Joel Barker