So last week I took a break from my business appointments. And I really mean a break – I made sure nothing was scheduled and I concentrated solely on the systems in my business.
Yes there were still calls to answer, but I took myself away from my desk and set up either on my kitchen table or my local cafe, whichever took my fancy. My goals for my “systems break” were to get a better handle on our new project management system and revisit some processes in the business.
Although I used the computer to learn more about our online project management system, for the majority of the time this systems break involved pen and paper. I let my mind free flow by thinking about new and innovative ways for the systems and processes to show up in my business. I have spoken about this before, but by taking that time out to really think about my business and the systems that are existing – and those not yet in existence – I was able to look at every aspect of my business, including client attraction, client engagement, client services, client retention and team management.
By looking at the systems you have (or don’t have) in your business, you can see how all of these components cross over each other.
What do I suggest you do for a systems break?
• Clear your calendar to give yourself the time to really think about the existing (and new) systems you have in your business
• Shut off your computer and move your operation elsewhere – another room, another building or somewhere you can really let your thought processes run without interruption
• Get some pens or markers and large sheets of paper
• Write down the things that have fallen through the cracks, things that have gone wrong where the system is not working or start planning one that does not currently exist
• Next, write down those things you wish were happening in your business; those systems you want to implement
• Once you have the lists, start with an item on either list that really gets your thought processes flowing. Yes, you could start with the most pressing items on the “mistakes” list, but it can be hard to get the creative solution juices flowing when you’re thinking about problems, so it’s best to start with whichever ones take your fancy and gets you into that thinking flow
• Take your pen and paper and work through the flow of information for this system. And, no, you don’t have to do the pretty (and correct) diagrams for each component of the system as per flowcharting. Don’t worry about that stuff, just start and get it down on paper so that you can understand what’s going on
• Once it’s down on paper play around with it. Ask yourself is it working as it is now? Are there points in the flow where things “get stuck”? Are there changes that can be made to “unstick” this process?
Generally you will find that at certain points there is an information checkpoint , which involves a collection or distribution of information. How you collect and disperse that information will determine the stability of the system.
Just like a financial system relies on an audit trail to determine the validity of the information, so do other systems in your business. If you have checkpoints in your systems these becomes the foundation of your systems review audit.