If you have systems in your small business, you will understand what activities are involved in operating the business. You will understand what needs to be done to support your business. Also, you will understand how activities are related to one another. You will know responsibility for implementation and required resources. You can track everything to make improvements.
Today, I want to share step-by-step guide on how to build systems in your company. And, that’s not all. If you start implementing the steps in this guide, you will know more about your business. As you know more about how things are working in your small business, you will be able to see opportunities to leverage more profits. This is the starting point to automate many things inside your company, so you will have more resources for more important things.
Step #1: Analyze Your Company – What Works and What Doesn’t Work
You need to start with what you have at this moment and how your business work on a day to day basis. For example, start asking following questions:
- What my company do in order to produce the products and services for my customers?
- What my company do in order to market the products and services that produce?
- What my company do in order to sell the products and services to my customers?
- What my company do in order to manage finances?
- What other things my company do daily to enable normal operations?
As you can see from these questions, you can define several groups of possible systems:
- Production or value creation system,
- Marketing system,
- Sales system,
- Finance system, and
- Support systems.
While you are answering these questions, sketch the answers on a piece of paper, or use tools like a Scapple (image below).
The next thing you will need to do is to write on your sketch all processes that you have identified through the answers of the questions. When you finish this your sketch will look something like this.
After you have your sketch with most important systems and processes, you can continue with the analysis of the processes. It is time for the next series of questions you will need to answer:
- In which processes the results are continuously disappointing?
- In which processes you are spending too much time to make things right?
- In which processes, mistakes are being made regularly?
- What I need to do to improve overall operations of my company making things to be more consistent?
Now, your sketch will look like something the following picture, but more complex with all processes you have earlier defined.
Step #2: Prioritize the Most Important Processes – What is Most Important For Your Business
Because you already have made an analysis of the processes, you can now easily make a list with the most important processes. These processes will be the focus of your work in the next steps of this tutorial.
How you can prioritize the processes? You can easily come to a dilemma, because as you already see, all processes are required for ensuring normal operations of your company.
Use table as shown on the image below for all identified processes and assign a number value in each row. The number represents the impact the process has for a specific criteria. You can add your own criterion that is important for your company. Assign a number between 0, if there is no impact and five if there is a significant impact.
The processes with the highest totals are the ones that would be the best to focus as a first for building proper process management. In our case, the production process #2 is the most important process that we will focus in the next steps.
Step #3: Create the Processes Maps – How the Process Visually Look
For this step you can use some application as Scapple or get a stack of index cards, a pen or marker, and put them on a flat surface to work in front of. Take one process that is most important for your company from the previous step. Start writing the beginning step of the process on one card, then the final step, or result on another card.
Now, you will need to brainstorm the tasks that take place between these two steps. Write each task on a separate card. At this stage don’t worry about the order, just write down tasks as they come to your mind. Keep writing cards until you can’t think about any more steps that will need to be part of the process. Your process map at this stage will look like the following picture.
The next thing you will need to do is to bring the order between the steps. Simple, create a picture of the process in chronological order. When you think about the chronological order of the steps, think about possibility to group them if they are similar or can be grouped. In my experience in many cases, you can group 30-40% of tasks or steps. After this, your map will look like the following picture.
Now, it is time to write down and insert any decision points inside your process map and connect the steps. The decision point follows the rule “if something happened, then specific action will need to be taken”.
When you finish your process map, test the process in your company and confirm that it works on the way how you have imagined it. It is important that the process brings the results you want it.
Step #4: Systems Improvements – What Can Be Improved
This step is never ending, because everything can be improved. The process that you mapped on in the previous step probably can be improved. So, now you need to look at the map you created and answer these questions having in mind the analysis results from the first step of this guide:
- What I need to do to spend less time in the execution of the process?
- What I need to do to improve the quality and quantity of the results as outputs from the process?
- What I need to do to cut possible mistakes of the process?
- Where the process can be simplified?
- Can some steps be combined or eliminated?
- Does each step add value?
- Are there some bottlenecks that will need to be eliminated?
- Is there something that doesn’t add value and can be outsourced?
- How can I automate some or all the steps inside my process?
Answers to these questions will help you in adjusting the map.
You should do periodically this step for every process in your business. The outcome of this step will be necessary adjustments of the processes. In many situations you may find that some processes become unnecessary, while new ones become more important. So, you will continuously change your business according to the real needs.