22 years ago, I was on the forefront of an important conversation that was emerging within the business world. Specifically, it was a recognition that having systems was critical to building an effective business operation. And thus, the systems revolution, started.
Back then, people loved the notion and idea of ‘having systems’. But ‘having systems’ is not the answer.
Even today, most people lack understanding what ‘having systems’ in their business really means. I recall a conversation with a business owner who was proud of the fact that they had documented systems in their business and proudly pointed to them, dusty and unused in three-ringed binders, on his shelf in his office.
Tonya, a Certified Level 7 Implementation Specialists, once commented that you hear people talking about systems at conferences, workshops, Zoom calls, webcasts and anywhere people are talking about business, but the fact is there’s a vast amount of confusion of what it is to ‘have systems’ in the business.
And even more disconcerting is the fact that businesses struggle with how to do it effectively that will have positive impact on the business.
We want them, systems, because we believe they will make a difference, and they will, but we just don’t know how to do it effectively. That is where the tension exists!
Thinking that ‘having systems’ is the solution is the very reason why systems don’t really work.
Regardless, an effort is made and, in the best case scenarios, fall short of expectations because ‘having systems’ is vastly different than being Systems-Driven.
The Level 7 System is all about is creating a Systems-Driven Business which is vastly different than just having systems in your business.
Having a Systems-Driven business means that you have adopted the idea that the key to success in your business is dependent on the quality of your systems and, if you want to improve your business, you must improve your systems.
Let’s take a moment to discuss the second part of that quote. Specifically, if you want to improve your business, you must improve your systems. Having a systems-driven business creates an environment where you have quality, results producing documented systems that are used daily in the business. It also means that if something isn’t working, or you wish to improve something in your business, your company knows how to actively engage in improving the systems. This is the beginning of being a Systems-Driven business.
Having a Systems-Driven Business becomes THE WAY of doing business that gets results and ensures that your entire team is on the same page an actively supporting the process of building an extraordinary operation.
Here are some of the critical elements necessary to becoming a Systems-Driven Business.
1- Installing the Systems Development Cycle is a fundamental part of the process. The Systems Development Cycle supports the reoccurring cycle of activity from the initial documentation of the systems, their periodic review or evaluation and the eventual innovation of the system when an improvement is required or beneficial.
2- Systems have a clearly defined results statement.
3- Systems performance must be measurable.
4- Every system must have accountable operators that actually use the system.
5- Innovation and improvement of systems must be organized and appropriate in their timing. No interrupt innovation allowed.
6- Systems must be housed in an easy to locate and accessible place. People need to be able to find them.
When seeking to build a business that solves the problems that most business experience while fostering a high-growth and stable environment that provides certainty of sustainable, having documented systems is simply not enough. Building a Systems-Driven Business is the way to creating certainty of continual improvement in their business.
Interested in exploring how you can become a System-Driven Business? Click Here to schedule a 30-Minute Strategic Session to determine if your business is a good fit to become Systems-Driven.
One of my favorite characters from the movie “Up” was Doug the Dog. Doug had a very special collar that enabled him to speak to humans. He was enthusiastic, loyal and easily distracted. He would often lose focus when he heard or saw a squirrel. Mid-sentence he would turn and say “Squirrel“.
I’ve observed how many business owners and entrepreneurs love squirrels too. I am talking about the shiny objects that distract our attention from action and activities that produce optimal results in hopes to find the latest, greatest gimmick that will catapult their business.
Understand, I am not against innovation and improvement. I am all for it; at the right time.
Here are some key strategies that will enable you to be much more strategic when you consider potential opportunities for innovation and improvement. Doing so will increase your likelihood of success by minimizing distractions and squirrels.
Know Your Numbers
Often entrepreneurs are not in tune with actual performance of their businesses in critical areas. They monitor their success by guessing.
A client and I were reviewing their marketing and lead generation efforts. When asked about the performance of his various efforts, he had no idea which channels were generating leads or had converted business. He was wingin’ it and making very subjective decisions about how to invest his marketing dollars as he was getting ready to renew some advertising contracts. I recommended that we do some data collection and forensics on previous sales over the last year. Interestingly, we discovered some surprising truths about his lead generation and conversion efforts.
Specifically, we determined that he was investing over $40,000 per year in a publication that only produced one lead for his company and no sales. Ironically, he thought the ad was working and getting ready to renew for the next year.
The good news is that we discovered that another publication was producing fantastic results and we diverted funds to that media.
Not utilizing good, objective information leads business owners to be in a constant state of innovation and often spending time focusing on the wrong thing.
Be Strategic About Innovation
Attention is the new currency. Marketers are doing everything they can do to capture your attention.
As I suggested before, entrepreneurs can be susceptible to distractions and offers purported to make your life easier, sell more, improve and innovate. When you know your numbers and the truth about your performance, it will help you temper and resist the constant demand for your attention.
In one of my businesses, I observed our leadership team considering an alternative to a software program that we currently have in place. The new potential vendor was offering a lot of bells and whistles that sounded very appealing.
I challenged our team to consider the results our current program was producing and asked if those numbers were acceptable. By the time we finished the conversation, we found that our current program offered all the functionality and efficiency we really needed to get the results we wanted. Yes, the other program was compelling, but didn’t offer any real tangible benefit that would enhance the business.
Monitoring numbers will tell you the areas of the business you need to focus your attention and stay focused on what matters most.
Plan Sand Box Time
Entrepreneurs by nature tend to be innovators. They like to improve things and make things better. It is part of their DNA and can’t be squelched. A simple solution is to spend time researching and learning new things at a very specific, designated time each week. Get in the sand box and play. As an example, spend two hours on Friday afternoons learning something new or researching an area of interest. The key is that you don’t have to take any action after you’ve played. Just satisfy your need to learn and explore. You can also use that time to look for ways to improve something that you’ve previously identified, based on the numbers, that is not working in your business.
In summary, being more productive starts with knowing your numbers, focus on fixing what is broken based on those numbers and watching out for the squirrels vying for your attention.
Last week I wrote about the 7 biggest mistake organizations make when become systems driven. If you missed it, you can read it here.
I also mentioned that I would reveal a couple strategies often used when it comes to driving the process and making the transformation from a people dependent to a systems driven organization. So here goes…
The first thing to consider is that when becoming systems driven you and your business is making a shift in the type of work you are doing. Most people focus on tactical tasks and reoccurring events. These are important no doubt, but they are not strategic. Let’s put it this way. Most of the work being done in business is urgent important.
When becoming systems driven, we are engaging in important, non-urgent work. In other words, if you put it off for a day, week, month or year, the only impact is continued day to day frustrations, potential lack of growth, inefficiency, lack of certainty and a better quality of life.
If we put off the day to day, tactical, urgent important work it might mean a customer is not served immediately, payroll doesn’t get processed, office supplies don’t get ordered or the latest fire doesn’t get addressed. These are important and require attention. I get it.
So, here is the rub.
The urgent important work is always going to exist. It never freakin stops. Never, ever, ever. Believing there will be an opportune time to work on the strategic, business development work is faulty thinking.
So, what do you do?
You must disrupt the flow. I promise you; you and your team will get the urgent work done. It will get done.
Because you and your people aren’t working efficiently. Ouch. Hate me or disagree. It’s the truth. Unsubscribe below if you don’t believe me.
My proof exists in this very simple fact.
If I were to call one of your team members and schedule a call to discuss systems and culture development, their quality of life or even the weather, they will fit it into their schedule. They will still get their day to day work done. Every time. In 20 years of doing this work it have been my experience.
So, your people and YOU and have time to implement a systems development strategy.
The first part of the strategy is to recognize and be absolutely committed to disrupting the work that you are your people do every day and implement the systems development cycle.
Oh…one more thing. You must get your Master Systems List in place before you can fully implement either of the strategies. Simply said, a Master Systems List is your index of all your systems that are or need to be documented within your organization.
Here are the two most popular approaches to building systems driven business.
1) The 90 Day Challenge.
The 90 Day Challenge is a process where your intent is to move with as much energy, focus and speed as possible to get all your systems documented. The power of this approach is momentum and results. Your business will be quickly and effectively resolving problems and frustrations that you and your people experience. In addition, having a shorter timeline means that you keep the pressure on the process for a short period of time. As I suggested before, your business will be riddled with distractions and day to day work. Get it done and get it done fast is the key.
The disadvantage to this approach is the fact that your people are going to be under a lot more pressure to do their required share of the systems development process. You might be asking them to engage in several hours per week of system documentation, review and training. It’s worth it however.
Here is a scenario. Let’s assume your business has 200 systems to document and you have 10 team members. Each team member will be required to document 20 systems assuming they are all involved in the process. That decision is for another conversation. But let’s say they are all engaged. That means each person is going to have to document 1-2 systems per week over the 90 Day or 12-week period. That is reasonable expectation but will likely require about 2 hours of their time or more each week.
The advantage of the 90 Day Approach is you get it done and done fast. Businesses that utilize this approach make a game of it, have a reward system in place and people feel accomplished because the time period is more finite and compressed. It becomes a project to them that everyone engages in completing.
2) As Time Permits Approach.
The As Time Permits Approach in full disclosure is not really a strategy but a default method that many organizations take. I wanted to share it because, ultimately, I would encourage you to avoid this approach. This approach adopts a similar strategy as the 90 Day Challenge or even a longer term like 180 Days but doesn’t establish an environment of accountability, expectation and follow-through. There is no challenge, vision or game communicated.
It starts with good intentions but falls short, often way short simple because they is not energy that creates disruption to the current day to day workflow.
If an organization adopts this approach they might, make the shift to becoming systems driven but there is no guarantee of that. Which is really a shame if they don’t.
There is also another unfavorable outcome and it falls on the business owner. or leadership. You lose credibility, because at some point, a vision of becoming systems driven was likely cast by you and chances are your people were inspired by it. In my person experience people love the idea of what system driven represents to them. They love the stability, certainty and order behind the idea. They don’t necessarily want to do the work to get there but they like the vision. Every business needs a strategy to get people to engage in the work which is why the leadership needs to create disruption. If the leadership casts the vision but doesn’t follow though then people lose confident in them.
I’ve experienced that firsthand, so I know. I’ve also seen it countless times in business when the As Time Permits Strategy is employed.
Adopt the 90 Day Challenge Approach
My recommendation is to adopt the 90 Day Challenge or even a 180 Day Challenge Approach. In doing so your business and people will experience rapid and significant transformation, you will experience collective success and the leader shows up as someone who is genuinely committed to getting things done even when it is uncomfortable.
Interested in taking on the 90 Day Business Systemization Challenge? Let’s connect and see if you and your business and you are ready for it. Click here to connect.
I am not enthusiastic about the possibility that when I die I will be remembered as the “systems guy”. Can you imagine on my tombstone.
Here lies Eden Sunshine. He helped 1000’s of businesses become systemized.
All I can say is UGH… I don’t, or should I say, refuse to be remembered that way.
I’d rather be remembered for helping business owners and their employees to build powerfully effective, kick ass organizations that are fun and rewarding and serves their lives.
Now that lights me up…what about you?
I understand why people think of me as the systems guy. It’s because we talk about systems…a lot. Building powerfully effective, kick ass, fun and rewarding organizations that serves their lives requires a proven and efficient approach. Systems are the solution.
I started talking about and helping people systemize their businesses over 20 years ago. Many people didn’t get it then. They often confused it with technology rather than processes and procedures. The buzz word of today is Scaling. Everyone is talking about scaling their business.
The way to scale and grow a business requires a systems approach.
The key to success (scaling, growing, being kick ass, loving to own, giving freedom, add your own definition) of any business is dependent on the quality of it’s systems and if you want to improve the business you must improve your systems.
Even though people have been talking about systems for 20 years plus, I have still observed that many, or rather most, businesses have a hard time implementing and doing it right.
Here are the biggest mistakes I observed, and even made myself, when it comes to building a systems driven business.
1- The systems aren’t actually documented.
Every systems, process, procedure, policy must be in writing. A lot of business claim to have systems but in reality that have information that is stored in people’s heads and subject to memory and interpretation. Solution: Document your systems.
2- The documented systems don’t actually work.
Having documented system that have never been tested and validated to actually produce the desired result is a waste of time and effort. If you want to maximize your lead conversion effort and close more sales, make sure your system actually produces that result. If you want to hire the best talent, make sure you have a great and proven process for accomplishing that hiring the best people. Solution: Test your systems.
3- The system isn’t trained.
Not putting the time and effort to make sure people are trained to actually properly operate the systems is a major problem. I get it. People are already busy. The best companies in the world are very intentional about employee training. Whether someone is new to the business or has been with a company 20 years, they are constantly being exposed to training around core values, culture and systems improvement. Training is analogous to improvement. Solution: Train your systems.
4- No Accountability.
People must follow the systems. Period. Want to read more about accountability. Click here.
5- Systems are not accessible.
Make it easy for people to refer to and use the systems. Have a great online tool like our proprietary system call YODA or go could old school with three-ringed process manuals on everyone desk. Either way, the systems must be a finger tip or a click or two away.
6- The systems are not regularly evaluated and innovated.
As I said before, if you want to improve your business, you must improve your systems. The focus on improvement is ALWAYS on the systems. Read more about the systems improvement cycle here.
AND the biggest reason for failure in become systems driven.
7- Lack of commitment to the process.
We all get derailed. I get it. I’ve lived it through my clients and my own businesses. The tyranny of the urgent strikes us and the business and, before we know it, we’ve put the systems development process on the back burner, again.
How do you fix that? It begins with a commitment from the business leadership. Then an action plan is developed. I will share with you several proven approaches and actions plans that have worked for me and my clients over the years next week.
Finally, you are not creating systems for the sake of systems but rather:
To build a powerfully effective, kick ass organization that is fun and rewarding and serves the lives of the owners and employees. Systems are just the approach to accomplish that mission. The mission will inspire and enliven you and your people.
If we focus on that mission, together we all win. My tombstone changes, (yay!!!!) and your lives and businesses will be powerful, effective and serve your lives.
Notable management expert Peter Drucker said “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. It sure is a catchy statement but means nothing if we don’t understand what culture really is. Of course it would help to be clear on strategy too but that is for another time.
Most people assume that culture is parties and gatherings, creating fun environments, great coffee and company provided snacks. It is not, although might be by-product of a having a powerful culture. If we don’t understanding what culture is, how can we create one intentionally? We can’t. So let define culture before I share the four points that keep organizations from building robust, powerful and effective cultures.
As suggested, culture is not about parties and gatherings unless one of your core values has to do with having fun and creating a connected environment among your people. Culture is simply a commonly-held set of beliefs and values that get regularly acted upon by the people in an organization.
People Living Core Values = Your Culture
Let me offer an example. Let’s say you’ve adopted a core value of “We Get Stuff Done”.
The potential definition could be: Our team members regularly take active and passionate initiative and accountability to make sure that projects, assignments and work is being completed quickly, efficiently and resourcefully.
With this core value in action you would likely observe people being extremely focused and committed to their work and the company.
So culture is lived and observed through the active and intentional behavior of its people.
Now that we have a better understanding of culture, here are three major mistakes that organization make that impact the quality or even existence of an effective and empowering culture.
1) Not Having a Well Articulate Set of Core Values
Not having core values well writing that describe the desired behaviors in details is the first big mistake. The value itself must be defined. Having a value like – “We are a Great Team” without a detailed description leaves the desired behaviors too open ended and subject to misinterpretation.
In addition, having a set of core values written and just posted on a wall has no punch or value either. It might serve as a reminded to people what your organization stands for but the context must be articulated. This leads me to the next mistake.
2) Not Spending Sufficient Time Training People on the Core Values and the Culture that You’re Creating
Speaking with a manager of a company that had recently hired some new employees, I asked how much time she spent training them on the company core values. Her response was “None”.
How can we expect people to understand the expectations and behaviors we have of them if we’re not sharing and helping them understand them? Even if there happens to be an occasional conversation on the subject of culture, most companies simply don’t spend time enough time on the topic. Our ultimate goal of our communication is to ensure that the culture is threaded into the fiber or personality of the organization. We are looking for transformational change.
The Level 7 Principle of Threading Culture suggests that an organization creates a systematic approach that includes robust and ongoing conversations and training that results into full organizational adoption. Which ultimately means your people are living it. Creating a wide variety of forums to share the culture like all staff meetings, one-on-one meetings with team members, shout outs and visual and auditory reminders is part of the process. There has to be an investment in time and energy into the process.
An environment of accountability must be created as well. Once we’re having conversations with people about living the businesses core values, we also have to hold people to the task. When we observe behaviors that are not in alignment with the culture, we need to engage in retraining.
3) Not Hiring and Screening for Culture
The third mistake companies make is not being intentional about the people that they are hiring. We tend to hire for skills and qualifications and neglect screening for values that line up with the company. Good hiring practices involve careful and intentional screening of candidates from the very beginning of the application and candidate screening process. Carefully crafted questions are designed to help identify whether or not that person is accustomed to acting and behaving in a manner consistent with the core values of your business. Past behavior is a strong indication of future performance and therefore good screening processes look for evidence that people are likely to living the values when they are hired.
In summary, creating a sustainable, inspired business culture requires clearly defined values, thorough and intentional recruiting for people who will fit the culture and robust, consistent and empowering training. Do so will position your organization for greater performance, differentiation and enhanced employee and owner satisfaction.