Where is that …. File?!?

I was speaking with a Colleague today about ‘File Management’, and the difficulties of actually FINDING that file you know you ‘filed away’ SOMEWHERE.  The frustrations of spending inordinate amounts of time looking for it is sometimes overwhelming.  The trick is of course to have implemented a straight forward system that will always allow you to find what you are looking for.

This discussion reminded me of an article I wrote some years ago in response to ‘System is not a Dirty Word‘, an article written for Inside Small Business – Winter 2014.

The article in question stated that ‘failure to systematize is to pass up real opportunities for increasing productivity, improving profit and reducing stress.  Systematization can enhance any business, whatever its type, size or sector, as you can create viable systems for every element of the business’.

In my experience assisting business owners to manage their administrative operations, I have been convinced that taking the time to review administrative operations creates an opportunity to strengthen the infrastructure that supports any business.  The results will be a ‘breath of fresh air’ as staff become more effective and efficient.

In fact, systematization can enhance any business, whatever its type, sector, or size, it will even work for micro-businesses and sole traders.  It is possible to create viable systems for every element of business, from sales, marketing and stock control through to customer service and manufacturing.

A System is actually no more than a repeatable way of doing things to achieve a particular outcome.  In other words, with a system, when ‘A’ happens, ‘B’ is done and ‘C’ results.   It is a simple equation that produces significant business benefits:

  • Systems ensure the consistency of a service or product by removing the variables that affect quality performance and delivery.
  • Systems remove unnecessary ‘think time’ as you know what needs to be done, so work can commence immediately without having to reinvent the wheel.
  • Systems prevent mistakes as there is a set sequence to be followed, so that tasks don’t get forgotten or missed.
  • Systems remove uncertainty, the enemy of good business, because it is clear to everyone what tasks and activities must be done to generate a successful outcome.
  • Systems help to make the best use of resources, cutting out expensive duplication of effort. They streamline a business and make them more efficient.
  • The very act of setting up a system, makes you think afresh about your business, what it does and how it does it. This forces a reassessment of core functions, which could mean working more effectively.
  • When systems are up and running it becomes easier to spot when things go wrong.  However, if everyone is doing their own thing, you are never quite sure what is working and what is not.
  • Systems create a basis for future improvement and adjustment. You can see more clearly where inefficiencies and bottlenecks are slowing things down or impacting on quality.
  • Systems are teachable. The contrast being where knowledge is kept inside people’s heads, and only transferred to others slowly and on a ‘needs’ basis.  In this environment, new employees are at a disadvantage and take longer to learn the ropes.  Where there are systems, anyone can be shown ‘the way we do things’.
  • Systems add value to your business.

Steps to a Workable System

  • Define what you want to achieve. What is the focus?
  • Identify your current system and analyze what works and what does not.
  • Make the systems as simple as possible. The more complicated a process is the more difficult it is for people to understand and use it.
  • Test your systems, to see how well they work and then make adjustments as necessary.
  • Be prepared to ‘sell’ the benefits of a new system to colleagues and staff as you are less likely to encounter resistance due to the belief that ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
  • Review your systems regularly to make sure they are still delivering.

Systems allow you to maximize the power of your business, not just improving output, but also the quality of all that you do.  Far from being a dirty word, ‘Systems’ should be in the ‘toolkit’ of every business owner.  

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