Benchmark Business Group

Designing Complicated Systems

June 27, 2023

At BBG, we often promote the value of systems. Yet, when we talk about systems it often gets reduced to “how to” or technical systems. These systems are important and should be documented within a business.

They might include:

  • How to enter a client into your CRM
  • How to prep for a review
  • How to… (enter a quote, run payroll, etc.)

It makes sense that these are the systems that most small businesses start to develop. They solve frustrations and are typically easier to document. Yet, as the tasks get more complicated or lean toward soft skills, we see more businesses struggle with how to document the system. For instance, businesses typically struggle to document systems such as:

  • Handling upset clients
  • A sales process
  • How to problem solve
  • Handling a crises

Yet, these are the systems that can take your business to the next level. Imagine if every single member of your team was better at solving a problem. Or handling a crisis that happened. What would it change for your business?

Systems shouldn’t just be about the technical work, especially the easier tasks. They should also be about teaching points of views and structure for how to think through problems. It’s not always easy to write these systems, because they’re not often thought of as a system and the creator may see the information as hard to caption. We hear from clients that there are too many options to document certain systems.

You can’t always capture or document everything, we understand that. However, a well-designed system can capture enough information that your team can operate at a higher level. Here are a few insights to help you document your more complicated systems:

  • Identify key steps: Break down the soft skill or complex system into smaller, actionable steps. Consider the sequential order in which these steps should be followed. Remember, key steps should include:
    • What questions do you ask yourself as you go through the process?
    • When you get to a decision-making step in the process, be sure to include the thought process that helps you decide which decision to make.
    • Mindset or point of view can be important to point out within the steps.
    • Add “why” this step is important in the system.
    • Soft skills often rely on judgment and intuition. While it's challenging to document these qualities precisely, you can provide guidelines and principles to help guide decision-making. Outline core values, ethical considerations, and strategic approaches that underpin the skill or system being documented. 
  • If you’re stuck, ask an outside person to ask you questions as you work on the process. Our business coaches are trained to do this, but an employee or even a mentor can help. Explain the process to them and use a recording device to capture the process but encourage them to ask questions as you proceed. This will help you understand what you naturally skip or hadn’t thought to document.
  • Document examples and case studies: Illustrate the soft skill or complex system with real-world examples and case studies. This helps to provide context and practical guidance to team members. Include both successful and unsuccessful instances, highlighting lessons learned and best practices.

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