If I was to ask you have you built a simple and effective operating manual for your business, what would your answer be?

More often than not, the answer I get is a resounding ‘No we haven’t’. While you may get away with it and you may have people that stay with you in your business long term, do you really want to take that chance? For those of you who have worked with me, you know that I like to leave absolutely nothing to chance in business.

Business is a set of measured processes and systems, the more you can streamline and improve these, the closer you will be to achieving your moonshot vision, that is your target Future State.

Keep it Simple

And I do mean simple and effective, not complicated and incomprehensible. It needs to be relevant to what’s happening on the ground, if its not, there are many dangers you will encounter

  • Key person dependency
    • What do you do when you have annual / sick leave?
  • Silo mentality
    • This breathes the whole working in a bubble, people do their job, then go home
  • Variable quality
    • When you have different people doing the same process different ways, issues arise and then..
    • What happens when your customer tells you that you have issues that you didn’t know you had?
  • Managing costs
    • This can very quickly spiral out of control when you are not managing issues
  • Growing organically
    • When you put process on top of process, barely stitched together and something goes wrong, what do you do?
  • To name but a few.. this list could actually be endless

With all that, the simplest way to protect your business, and people is to develop simple, and I stress the importance of the word simple, guidelines on how to do every core activity in your business, that is build knowledge in the system . This is not a race, so don’t put all your efforts into doing this in one foul swoop. Set yourself a goal to get X done per month over the course of X months, remember you have a business to run, which surely is a marathon, not a sprint… I always like the’ little often’ approach, tip away at it in the background..

Another point to note is that, things change, and maybe your processes will evolve over time, always remember to keep this updated, again the little often approach. I have been asked in to so many clients over years to get their ISO 9001 system ready for an oncoming audit, and because they were not minding the manual, there is always a substantial race to get this audit ready in time. Why? Well usually the manual they have developed was not simple and very intricate. This makes it difficult and timely to keep it up to date and relevant.

When you develop these with the correct mindset, they will serve your business very well.


Build Knowledge in the System Video Transcript

Hi, Shay Lynch here, director of Future State. Today I wanna to talk about building knowledge in your system. So you’re a business leader or business manager, right? You’re building a team, right? It started off maybe as you and that’s okay ’cause you know how to do things, right? But then as you started to get bigger and you start to scale and you need to take on people and start delegating to do certain key activities. But how do you ensure that they’re doing it the best way? How do yo know they’re doing it from the one best method, or the current best method of doing it? And then what happens if they leave? There’s a lot of problems when you come to building teams, and that is about not keeping knowledge within the system. And some of the key issues I see is first of all, key person dependency. What happens if that person leaves? Does their knowledge go with them and then you have to start from scratch? You have to figure out how they did certain activities because you’ve become removed from them. That’s gonna take time and effort and a lot of frustration. Okay? So that’s one of the big issues I see, key person dependency. And I see that everywhere regardless of size of team or business. Another one, what happens if you need people to step in if someone’s on holidays or if someone’s out sick? What about getting variable results if different people are doing it different ways, and especially if that’s a customer facing process? What happens with quality then? So quality suffers and then cost increases if you have to do things multiple times. And then all of a sudden you’re growing organically and not systematically. And these are some of just the key issues. There are many, many more. So what I talk about with companies is building knowledge within that system. I’m not talking about massive, complicated, intricate, standard operating procedures or SLPs. I’m talking about building simple guidelines that can help anyone do something a certain way. And this is uber important if you’re talking about cover when people are on holidays or people are sick or just knowing how to do something the best way, so you can get consistent results because all these issues here. The benefits when you start documenting things in a very smart way is that, you won’t have key person dependency, you’ll get consistent results, you’ll be able to rinse and repeat products and outputs and activities to ensure you get good customer experience and satisfaction all the way through that end-to-end process. Your quality will be consistent and that means your costs are reduced because you’re doing things once and you’re doing them right. Okay? You’re not doing them twice or three times ’cause you messed up the first time. You’re doing it once and you’re doing it right. And then you’re gonna get to a situation where you can grow systematically. And when you bring in new people, you’ve got a set of guidelines, and I keep emphasizing simple guidelines, to help them get up to speed as quickly as possible. And in fact, what I always talk about with teams is this, think stranger story. So if a stranger came in and started working. So say for example, there’s a good few of your team, a high proportion of your team out, and you’re really exposed on your delivery outputs, and especially if they’re customer facing. What are you gonna do? You’re getting these new people, right? But they don’t know what to do. So what happens? What are the benefits end if you had simple guidelines to get them going? So simple that they can understand them, a stranger can understand them. With a bit of simple guide guidance they can get up to speed very quickly, and keep things ticking over until you get your team back. This is something that I see in business all the time. It’s a big deficit, but it’s a very easy one to close. And as you grow, these things will serve a fantastic purpose in terms of real understanding of what you do in different parts of your teams or your business. Okay? So guidelines. Right? So the key is getting all that information, all that knowledge from the people documented. I keep saying the one best way of doing it, not just a million different ways. Just making sure that you’re documenting the best way of doing something. And you do that by doing simple guidelines. And again keep it to one page. Do not have reams of reams of complicated, intricate jargon or wording. Keep it simple so a stranger can understand it. So simple bullet points, as little english as possible so there’s no ambiguity. Keep it simple stupid, as the saying goes. Right? If it’s a computer-based activity, can you do a screen capture while you’re doing it? So you’re doing the activity, screen capture, talk-over, and voice-over while you’re doing the activity so people see it. Very, very simple. It doesn’t take much effort. You’re actually doing a win-win you’re doing your activity and you’re talking about it and training someone else to do it. It’s very little extra time. And this is the key to ensure when you’re building these guidelines, it’s not a huge lift in effort. And again, if you have a lot to do, be smart, create a plan, do a little often, not a lot a little. Make sure you can still run your business at the same time. So be smart about it. What are things to consider when you’re doing this? Highlight key criteria. So for example if this process is a customer facing, make sure people know that this is customer facing so there needs to be a certain dynamic when you do it. Say if you’re talking on the phone or you’re meeting a customer, what are the empathy skills you need? What are the other criteria that you need to be mindful of when you’re doing it? What happens if quality is a very important point here. So if you make a mistake, the cost of that is substantial. So make sure you do it once and do it right. So simple highlighting to ensure people understand at this particular step in the guideline, make sure you’re being careful. Okay? Or you could have a control where you have a four eye review where someone else checks your work. If it’s an email, if it’s a letter, if it’s something written, it’s very hard to review your own work. So you may put a consultant, get someone else to check this before it goes ahead. Labeling. So what do I mean by that? So as your business grows, you’re gonna have multiple departments. So you create a labeling system. So when you go back over time, it’s very easy to find certain set of guidelines because you’ve created a logic when you’re building your set of guidelines. So very simple, you could have, say if it’s in marketing, you could have MA or start with 001 ’cause it’s the first one and the title. Right? Just very simple, a one word of the title and then revision one, ’cause you need to revise because as you learn how to do things better, these need to stay updated and reflect what is actually happening today. Don’t let them get out of control. ’cause then it’s just a big lift to get them in control. And again, if you have people coming in to do work, and they’re looking at a document that doesn’t reflect what’s happening on the ground, there’s a gap in your process. And then you come back here to all these issues. So the whole point here is to ensure that you can keep the knowledge within the system. And the more you do that over time, the stronger your business side is. And then also, then your process of delegating work will become simpler and easier because you’ve got a process to do it. And then if you’re too busy doing something you can ask for help and get someone to go and look at this, give them a little bit of guidance and they can get up and running very, very quickly. I hope this makes sense. If you have any questions, get in touch. In the meantime this is Shay Lynch saying thanks for watching.