Systemising is the ultimate key to shaping up your business and preparing it for sale. The process can be a closely held secret and it is carefully guarded. Systematic approaches, using processes, tools and data that ANYONE (with a reasonable level of skill) can operate, tend to scale much better. In fact, the ability to scale or handle more volume is one of the biggest benefits of systemisation. The first step is the jump start process.
The Jump Start process will help you eliminate repetitive, pressing problems – particularly ones that push your emotional buttons – by focusing on system failures, not personal failures. It is designed to get rid of the “blame game,” a natural human reaction when things go wrong. We all look to blame someone or something when difficulties arise, when the real answer is that there is a system missing. It will also help you fix a problem or frustration quickly and permanently as you will be able to identify the underlying causes of your problem.
This common-sense approach has two underlying ideas:
First, everything we do in the business can be systemised, and
Second, people are never the problem, only the lack of systems.
Naturally, we know that not all problems and frustrations are systems-related. There will be legitimate personality conflicts, emotional issues, and differences in operating styles that have nothing to do with systems. The Jump Start however, provides consistent ways to recognise which are systems issues and which are people issues.
In the Jump Start, the terms “system” and “process” are NOT the same. The difference is that, although a system is a process, it is a process that relies on tools and data, not just individual expertise and experience. A system can also be documented. Thus a good system can produce consistent, predictable results each time it is executed. High levels of skill are also not needed to operate a system so that it produces comparable results time after time.
The Jump Start is a system – a system for designing systems. It is 7-Step process of evaluating the frustration, identifying the underlying problem, and creating a system-based solution.
The seven Jump Start steps are:
- What’s on your mind? What is frustrating you?
- Restate the problem as a system problem
- Uncover and quantify the underlying business condition
- Identify the general system solution
- Affirm your commitment to solve the problem
- Define the specific system solution
- Implement the solution
Step 1 – What’s on your Mind? What is Frustrating you?
Identify what’s on your mind and what’s frustrating you. Think about your business and your daily concerns and make a small list of these frustrations. Remember, you don’t have to write down major problems, just start with small annoyances.
This step is important. You need to state your frustrations in very specific language. Avoid broad general terms, or blaming someone or something. The reason for this is if you state your frustration in the wrong way, it can lead you down an incorrect path, possibly to a solution that doesn’t result in a cure for the frustration.
Now, select a frustration to address then go on to the next step.
Step 2 – Restate the Frustration as a System Problem
To put it simply, your frustration is almost never a person, vendor or your problem; it is a system problem. If you describe your frustration as “I can’t” or “we don’t”, then you’re thinking about the frustration in terms of you or someone else. You’re blaming. You must get yourself out of the equation if you are to convert a frustration to a system problem.
Now you have a clear, concise, system-directed statement of the problem, which brings you into the heart of the Jump Start.
Step 3 – Uncover and Quantify the Frustrating Issue
How do you uncover the specific issue that’s causing your frustration? You must ask many specific questions that will quantify the underlying conditions; questions such as how much, how many, for how long, what percentage. In other words: get the facts.
Now, to get started, ask yourself a good lead off question such as:
- “How does this frustration specifically impact my business?”
- “What results am I not getting?”
This kind of interrogation will soon uncover not only the real underlying causes of your business frustration, but it will also point you toward a solution or solutions that will truly eliminate that frustration.
Here are some good questions to ask yourself to see if you’re close to uncovering the real issue.
- “Why does this bother me?”
- “How do I know that this is an issue?”
- “What evidence is there about this issue?”
- “What am I not getting?”
Until you are clear about what is really happening in your business, there’s nothing that can be done.
Step 4 – Identify the General System Solution
Once you have attained a clear and specific understanding of the frustration you want to fix, the solution will begin to emerge. Then to solidify how this solution should work, the most important element is to be clear about the result you want.
Don’t underestimate the significance of reaching this point of the process. You should by now have dispensed with notions about people dependency, and transcended the trap of finding fault. You are no longer cowed by outside forces that you can’t control. You are able to slice through superficial symptoms to identify and quantify actual, underlying causes and effects. But, most importantly, you have learned to think in a new way.
Step 5 – Affirm your Commitment to Solve the Problem
To solve it takes generally takes time and energy. You must ask yourself whether you are up to it. Ask yourself:
- “Do I really want to fix this frustrating issue, or would I rather live with it?”
- “Is this one important enough to address right away or will it have to wait?”
- “Will this issue ‘fix itself’ by addressing another frustration first?”
Step 6 – Define the Specific System Solution
There are eight steps to this development process for creating new systems. You may not need to follow all steps for all new systems, but my advice is you won’t go wrong if you stick close to the plan. Sometimes, you will see that small systems may require very little and larger systems all the steps and more, but for now it is best to follow the plan closely.
1. Design your system to incorporate the following elements:
- A desired outcome.
- A sequence of steps.
- Proper staffing and accountability.
- Timing/scheduling/due dates for activities and results.
- Standards (requirements, performance criteria, goals).
2. Create operating forms and documents
3. Write scripts for every key communication. In many cases, a script is the system, which is why scripting is a key element of the Jump Start. The simplest way to develop scripts is to 1) record the process; or 2) record conversations.
4. Develop tracking and reporting tools in either printed or digital format.
5. Design a training program that will instruct staff in how to use the system properly. The program can be in written, audio, CD-ROM or even video format (using today’s easy-to-use digital video tools). The best is to record your live presentations, and then put them into an easily accessible format.
6. Test your new system. Your training program can be a way of testing your new system.
Specify the Implementation Process. Systems that really are systems must be imposed by “executive order”. You must take the “Benevolent Dictator” approach. You are the owner, and this new system is not optional; it’s mandatory.
8. Determine the communications and rollout procedure, including positioning of the new system and rollout of its implementation. Use your normal methods for getting the message out – e-mail, intranet or whatever other method you have. There is NO excuse for failing to adhere to system policies, guidelines and rules, so everyone must be adequately informed.
There are some systems you use that will be extremely simple, taking just minutes to create and install from start to finish. On the other hand, if you consistently run out of parts for your assembly line, you probably have a more complex development project ahead.
Step 7 – Implement the Solution
Implement your new system right away. There will be no benefits until the system is operating. Be aware, that the system may not produce perfect results at first. You almost always need a certain amount of fine-tuning. The more complex your system, the more likely it will require some work. Systems are dynamic and you will have quantify and track the system’s operations and results, and continually seek out ways to improve it.
Try the following process:
- Introduce the system in a private meeting
- Express your expectations for them
- Get written commitment to honour the system
- Specify the consequences of non-compliance
- Celebrate. Your new system is up and running and you have facts to show that it works. Now it’s time to celebrate. The process really does work.