Tips to Make a Successful Working System

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The most successful businesses around the world all use working systems to help them operate at maximum efficiency. This applies to businesses in all industries and all market sectors: any type of business can be systemised in order to make efficiency improvements across the board and to maintain those improvements in day to day operations.

The problem for most organisations that want to start systemising their business is knowing what factors are the most important ones to focus on. In this guide, we are going to help you solve this problem by telling you the key ingredients of any successful working system and how to go about creating your own system from scratch.

After you have finished reading our list of key ingredients and tips to make a successful working system, you will be in a much better position to start designing your system or improving it.

The Key Ingredients to a Successful Working System

Before you can start your planning in earnest, you need to know what goes into a successful system. In our experience, there are 4 essential ingredients that you must include in your plans to create a successful working system:

  1. Policies – At the highest level of your working system, guiding everything that your workforce does, should be the policies that encapsulate the primary aims of your business and how you wish to achieve those aims. The thought you put into your policies is important because it is these policies that will be the guiding star for the processes and procedures that sit under them. Think of your policies as mission statements for each department in your company, statements that describe the rules you would like your staff to adhere to and the beliefs you wish to uphold as you do business on a daily basis. AT the simplest level, think of any policy as a clear statement: We will always do this or We will never do that.
  2. Processes – One step down from policies in the system hierarchy should be your processes. Business processes are step by step descriptions of how you go about achieving your desired outcomes. You will need to capture many processes, covering the outcomes that you aim to achieve in all areas of your business.
  3. Procedures – When you get to the procedures level of your working system, you will be writing detailed guides on how to implement the various repetitive process tasks that your workforce deal with regularly. A well-written procedure contains step-by-step instructions that explain exactly how to complete a certain process. It should be easy to understand, use the language and terminology of your workforce, and provide enough detail to allow your trained workforce to implement them and consistently achieve the planned outcome.
  4. Props – Those checklists, form, tally sheets, videos, templates, registers, and the many tools we use to support, or prop up the process are important components of any system. They are absolutely integral to any system, and, designed the right way, will significantly boost the effectiveness of your system while providing the records or proof that support compliance and good business decision-making.  

Together, your policies, processes, procedures and props provide the basis for consistent and reliable performance of your business. And importantly, they provide the basis for training and performance management across your business.

If you are not completely sure what the difference between policies, processes, procedures and props are, take a look at the example below. Feel free to skip straight to the next section if you are sure you already understand these ingredients.

A Policy, Process and Procedure Example

A company that sells products, either directly to end customers or to retailers, should have policies that govern product sales, and processes, procedures and props to describe how orders are handled and recorded when they arrive, which may be worded something like this:

  • Order Handling Policy – Every order that is received must be checked and dispatched within 24 hours. The only exception to this policy is when stock is not available. In this case, the customer must be informed immediately and offered an alternative product if possible. Records must show the dates and progress of each order from receipt to dispatch, including results of checks carried out through the process.
  • Order Handling Process – The sales team check the order before passing it through to the dispatch team who prepare the order for dispatch. The dispatch supervisor is accountable for the performance of the team and ensuring they follow the procedure set out below.
  • Order Handling Procedure (Dispatch) – A member of the dispatch team checks each item on the sales order (along with the required quantities) against the current stock levels recorded in the computer system. Assuming all is well, the order is passed to a member of the picking/packing team, who will gather the products together and pack them carefully, ready for dispatch. Items are marked off on the order as they are gathered. The dispatch manager will then make sure the goods are marked off and loaded on the next available vehicle. The carrier details are recorded against the order.

This is a simplified version of a dispatch procedure and it is likely that you will also have a separate procedure for the sales team members to follow. However, for the sake of brevity, we have included just the simplified dispatch procedure in this example.

If all of these 4 key ingredients to a successful working system are included in your plans, you will significantly increase your chances of getting it mostly right the first time. We say mostly right because even with the best of intentions and careful research and planning, it is unreasonable to expect your first attempt at a working system to be perfect.

There will almost always be a few wrinkles that need to be ironed out. The purpose of this guide is to make sure that any problems you encounter are minor issues rather than major roadblocks. By including these 4 key ingredients in all areas of your system and by following our tips to make a successful working system, which we have listed below, you should be able to avoid most, if not all, of the common pitfalls that await the unwary.

Our Top Tips to Make a Successful Working System for Any Business in Any Industry

Now you know the key ingredients you need to include, you’re ready to start planning your system in detail right? Well, not quite. Before you get started, read through our top tips to make sure you know exactly what you are doing.

These tips are organised in the form of a step-by-step guide but if you already know what you want to do for some of these steps, you can simply take what you want from our suggestions and leave what you don’t want.

  1. Identify All Your Core Business Activities – In many cases, the core business activities will be broadly similar to the departments in a commercial business but this is not always true. Sales and marketing, finance, manufacturing and logistics are all examples of business activities that may be on your list.
  2. Formulate Guiding Policies – Every business activity should have an associated policy, which states in plain language what it is that you are trying to achieve in this area of your business. What you Will and Won’t do. 
  3. Create Individual Processes for Each Activity – For each core activity, you should create individual processes that describe the steps to be completed in order to perform that activity efficiently.
  4. Create Detailed Procedures – Every process should have its procedure linked to it, detailed step by step. Think of these as the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) that many companies refer to as part of their QA/QC systems.

Make them as clear and jargon-free as possible, using the language of your workforce. Together with the policy, process and props, the procedure will form the basis of the training and performance management of everyone in your workforce.

  1. Create the Props to Support each Process/Procedure – As you create the process and develop the procedure, you will be able to identify the props that are required along the way. A checklist to capture the result of a product check, the Outgoing Goods tray to hold the Consignment Note for the courier, the Packing Guide to show how a particular product is to be packed and what documentation or marketing brochures are to be inserted during packing. the software you use to track a sales order from fulfilment through to dispatch (and maybe proof of delivery). The props hold everything together.
  2. Always Involve Relevant Team Members in Creating and Reviewing Processes and Procedures – All stakeholders should be represented in designing a process and writing the related procedure. The people who are actually responsible for performing the tasks laid out in a procedure will identify hot spots, errors and omissions that others may miss, or suggest improvements that had not occurred to others. Seniority is not a useful indicator of process expertise.
  3. Test Each Procedure Carefully – You will hear many ‘experts’ state that the easiest way to find out how well-written your procedures are is to ask a member of staff from an unrelated department to follow them. In reality, this is impractical and potentially very damaging.

    So, always test your procedures using the most experienced team members. Their expertise will help expose any faults or opportunities to improve the procedures. Once you have this sign-off, test the procedure against other requirements, such as stock management recording, interaction with Accounts, or external compliance requirements.

    Of the 4 key ingredients to a successful working system, procedures are often the hardest to get right. For this reason, we strongly recommend that all organisations follow this testing suggestion.
  4. Set up a Regular Review – Can you remember life before mobile phones? It was a very different world. The changes in the way we communicate have completely rewritten the way we communicate. If we were still following the processes we used pre-mobile phones, we’d be in a very bad state.

    In the same way, writing a successful working system is not a ‘capture, publish and done’ task. If you want to make sure that your business continues to operate at maximum efficiency in the future, you should review all of your policies, processes, procedures and props on a regular basis. We recommend setting the review schedule for each process, along with the related procedure and props, based on the complexity and risk in each process. The more complex or risk-laden a process, the shorter the review cycle. Also, the review cycle may be defined by time or duration (eg. every 3 months) or by a number of instances or runs of a process (eg. every 3 batches). These process reviews will allow any new developments to be discussed and the relevant policies, procedures and props to be reviewed and amended if necessary.

If you would like one of our experts to talk you through the process of creating an effective working system, don’t hesitate to call and speak to us now.

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