Benchmark Business Group

Systems Should be Owned by the Business

October 11, 2016

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Last week we started exploring systems beyond the electronic programs and applications your business relies on. We expanded your point of view that your business is run on different kinds of systems. Everything that happens in your business is based on a system. This week we want to challenge you to explore the degree to which your business is at risk as a result of not owning the systems being used to achieve results. 

Too often when working with businesses, we find systems are not owned by the business. Instead, they are owned by the people that are employed by the business. The operating intelligence of a business walks out the door every night, and if the business is lucky, walks back in at the beginning of the next business day. It basically comes down to this: your business is made of great people, but it is at risk if what the great people are doing every day isn't in writing and available to put into the hands of other great people. 

In many cases, this is discovered when a new employee is trained. For example, how is a new employee trained on making a call to a client? You may say, "Well, we would show them how." But who specifically is 'we'? And what if everyone in the 'we' made the assumption that another employee showed the person how to call a client? In this scenario, the new employee didn't get trained at all! Hopefully, this new employee asks someone before a mistake happens. 

The above example probably won't have a large impact on the business. However, it could be a big problem if it was something more substantial, as in completing a purchase order for a large client. How is a new employee trained to do that? The answer is by following a system. The business should have a system in place for this new employee to follow. If instead, training the new employee to complete the purchase order is having an experienced employee show them, then the business doesn't own the system. The experienced employee with the knowledge owns it. Therefore, if the experienced employee won the big lottery and didn't come back to work, the knowledge they own to complete purchase orders also isn't coming back. 

But, if the experienced employee who knows how to complete a purchase order documented the steps, and those steps were accessible to others, then it is now a system owned by the business. So, if the experienced employee wins the big lottery and doesn't come back to work, someone else in the business could access the system, follow it, and complete a purchase order. The business is in a better place not to suffer a large loss. 

We here at Benchmark Business Group encounter these scenarios often with businesses. This is the reason we recommend every business have a designated location for all systems. Each business has different needs on how its systems are organized and accessed; it could be in the form of a written manual, binder, or even an electronic file. Systems can also be organized by function, department, or position. The key is, as long as systems are documented, others can be plugged into them, and the risk to your business is reduced, because the business owns the system.

Our challenge to you this week is to have each of your employees identify the top three systems for their position. Have each employee write the systems, and document them for others to follow. Here is an example of what should be included in a documented system:
  • System Title
  • Objective of the System
  • Responsible Position for the System
  • Positions using the System
  • Required Resources
  • Competencies and Skills
  • Process Illustration
  • System Standards
  • Measures and Scores
  • Step-by-Step Outline with Position Responsible for each Step

We created a template for documenting systems. If you would like to receive an electronic version of this blank template, you can email us here

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