The Value of Good Systems
A few days ago, I had the privilege of being on The Artisans Podcast discussing the tools and the systems recommended for organizations and small businesses. After the session, I stopped and thought…
Since when did I become a systems guy?
I am an extrovert. I love being around people, I’m energized by people, I have ideas. I have vision. I’m a doer and an optimist. I was never a systems guy.
Systems used to be the ‘S’ word.
I thought they were so boring and I thought systems were for geeks and introverts. Boy was I wrong! I have discovered how useful good systems are.
The DiSC profile, systems and me
In the DiSC profile four personality profiles.
- Dominance (green)
- Influence (red)
- Steadiness (blue)
- Conscientiousness (yellow)
The dominant personalities are Type A leaders who make decisions. Influencers are optimistic, enthusiastic (that’s me!) Steadiness types are patient and dependable. Conscientious types are analytical, reserved, systematic.
As an “i” by nature, I seem opposite to a “C”.
But I have learnt and unlocked how important having good systems are.
Why systems matter
If a project or task is a repeatable process, ie. can be broken down into a series of steps or sub-tasks, then it belongs in a system. But why? Because it is going to save me a lot of time in the long run.
This is the value of a good system.
Good systems save time. It cuts down my effort, it saves my brain space and processing. It allows me to do more rewarding and more high value activities. I don’t need to work so hard on manual things that can be put into a system.
You do need to invest more time into a system at the beginning. You need to invest about 120-130% more than what you would if you were just doing the thing once. But once the system is set up, then the next time you do that task, you spend much less time on it because it is in a set system.
From then on, it may even become close to 0% effort!
Setting up systems is definitely a learned skill for me. But from doing this, I win, my team wins, my clients win!
I can trust the system to do it over again. It’s a repeatable process.
The dirty ‘D’ word… documentation!
Another thing that does not come naturally to me is documentation. When I was younger, reading a manual would be really, really boring. If I had to program the VCR for mum and dad at home to record something off the TV, I wouldn’t want to read the manual. I would just smash buttons and eventually figure it out for myself.
Sharing knowledge and documenting things is really important. It is a bit painful to start with.
The secret is getting things out of my head into a system so then other people can benefit from the knowledge that I have.
This is so important for onboarding new people or training people up who need to do a task. Documentation becomes a huge time saver in the long run.
In the same way as setting up a system, you need to invest a little bit more time, another 20%-30%, into documenting. But then the next time, you spend much less time and effort into showing, communicating and training.
It is a small investment of time, but it really pays off in the long run.
With documentation, you need to capture information in a systematic way.
Think about documenting a series of steps or tasks, a how-to do something or use a system. The format is up to you, start with whatever comes most naturally to you or whichever format will best suit your content:
- a series of images
- a short video
- a template
- a checklist
- a text document
- an spreadsheet with steps & description on each line
Start collecting your documentation into one single place, a simple index or knowledge management tool.
For many years, I have used Trello which is a super handy task management tool that helps capture things out of your head, ideas, thoughts, processes, things to work on.
It is a board with lists and cards which you can use to start capturing ideas, things you are working on, tasks, projects. Over time, you can build it up. Don’t be overwhelmed. It does not need to be perfect and you don’t need to do it all at once. You can build up incrementally and continually improve. By doing this, you will get better at documenting and using the system. Another advantage is that it is easy to tweak the system as you go and as you figure out better ways of structuring your tasks and ideas.
Systems and documentation do not come naturally to me, but I understand the benefit of them. They save so much time and effort in the long run. Systems make my life easier, reducing the amount of tasks I need to repeat. Documentation helps save time on showing people what to do over again. Put it all in one place, into a knowledge hub, repository, or an index, then point people to there.
Do the work once!
Remember, the aim is to make it easy for it for your team to do their jobs well.
If you are a ‘C’, thank you so much and keep up the good work. If you are like me, and you are not a ‘C’, then we can help you set up systems and documentation to benefit you, your team and your organization. Reach out if you need a hand with your systems and documentation.