In this next blog, we’ll look at how to build some simple systems. We all have systems in our work, but often we are very busy people and we make them up as we go along. So over time, they get a little bit too much and out of control.

It’s also a common complaint among business people that they are quite concerned about the proliferation of systems, because they can get in the way of actually doing the work. Everybody gets far too busy making sure that the right boxes are ticked and the right form is filled in to actually satisfy the customer and get some money in. It’s a very reasonable concern.

Systems can become like this. Look at any number of examples, mainly in large businesses, although they exist in small businesses too. We have had clients where their systems are so secure and so well documented that there is very little time left to actually do the work. Growth was somewhat constrained in the circumstances, and customers left frustrated, as you will appreciate.

So it is worthwhile doing a little audit every now and then making sure that the critical things are covered, and that there are no gaps or (even worse) overlaps. Gaps you tend to fix on-the-fly. Once you’ve done this more than twice, we suggest you fix it properly because that is just wasting time and costs money. Overlaps unfortunately have a more insidious effect. You don’t notice them. And they also lose time and cost money.

You do not want to over systemize though.

We want systems have to do enough and no more. Your audit will make sure that you plug the gaps in the things which happen regularly, and remove the overlaps. Your audit should also uncover things that you don’t need to do very much at all, which you can then just simply remove. You do not want to think through every possible combination of every possible event that could befall you and have some system in place just in case. That’s over work, and when that event does at last occur, you spend more time looking for the system to fix it than you would have done in just doing the sensible thing and putting in a bit of thought.

Systems can be freedom. You want the normal repetitive actions in the business dealt with in a predictable, consistent and competent way. When the unlikely or unusual occurs, you want a real person using all their brains and experience dealing with it because then you will get the right result for your business and probably for your customer too. Your customer will feel that they have been treated by a real person who understands the customer’s real problem and has dealt with it properly. There will be no question of the computer saying No. You do not want systems which get between you and your customers. But you do want systems that automate the day-to-day stuff you have to deal with in the same way every time, because that frees you to think about the matters that need real thought. Too much systemisation removes the ability to innovate, be creative and be agile. These are essential attributes to succeed in a fast moving society.

Systems should act like good habits. So when we are – for example- brushing our teeth, doing up our shoelaces etc. we do not have to think about what we’re doing so our mind can move to something more interesting. That’s what good systems are for. But remember that bad habits can creep in, and that’s what the audit is for – to clean them out and rebalance your business. Just enough systemisation allows you to be creative and flexible so you can respond to changes in your markets and customers. And gives you time – time to think.

If you need a hand, we can do your systems audit for you and advise you on what is reasonable and what you can dump.