Do you believe business systems are important, but you're not sure how to get started? It's actually easy and even fun. Let me show you a quick way to create a draft of your system design. Then you can let someone else—secretary, student assistant, team leader, or manager—prepare the final document and acquire the necessary system components.
Step 1 - Bring Together the Team
When I want to outline out a new business system, or improve an existing one, I often conduct a whiteboard discussion with key people such as managers, supervisors, and team members. I not only want their ideas, insights and experience, but I want their buy-in and commitment when the new system is deployed.
I prepare for the meeting by gathering any system-performance or financial data, and by inquiring about customer complaints or employee frustrations. I try to begin the discussion with a good idea of the problems or challenges.
Step 2 - Determine the System Objective
At the top of the whiteboard, I first write the name of the business system we are addressing (e.g., lead generation, customer service, order fulfillment). I then briefly discuss with the group how the current system is performing (baseline data), and what the perceived problems or challenges are. I may even use a 5-Whys Analysis to uncover the root cause. Properly identifying the underlying problem often points to the solution! Finally, I write on the whiteboard our agreed-upon system objective and measurable goal.
Step 3 - Flowchart the System
On the left side of the whiteboard, I draw and label a box with the first step of the system. On the right side of the whiteboard, I put a box with the last step of the system. It is very important to establish the correct beginning and ending points. We don't want to overlap with other business systems. With input from the team, I draw the rest of the flowchart boxes and connecting arrow-lines, modifying box names, and re-positioning until we are satisfied with the basic system design.
Sometimes our process has decision points with alternate paths such as a customer choice between a "standard service" and a "deluxe service." In addition to the steps moving forward, the process may also have a path that loops back for rework. For example, an application is "not approved" or a manufactured part "fails inspection." These additional paths are incorporated into our flowchart.
After much discussion, sharing different points of view, experimenting with alternate logic, and trying to reach a consensus, we finally agree on the best way to accomplish the objective of the business system.
Step 4 - Identify the System Components
The next task is to identify the major components needed to perform the steps of the process. Under each flowchart box, we list the different forms, checklists, tools, equipment, software, and so forth, necessary to complete the step successfully. With group participation, we identify most components; however, we can add others later when refining the system. I usually list one to five important component parts per step—not many.
Note: The greatest weakness of most new system developers is not identifying or acquiring the necessary "component documents." Somebody has to create the checklists, job descriptions, telephone scripts, policies, forms, worksheets, and so forth—the paperwork. Carefully consider these items for each step in your process. They are the essential ingredients of an effective business system. Delegate the acquisition of system components as much as possible.
By following this simple procedure, we now have a draft design of our business system or process. We've identified what we want the system to do, how we will do it, and what component parts are necessary to do it right.
Proper Tools Reduce Time and Cost
Here comes the pitch. With Box Theory™ Gold software, you can have a person in the meeting quickly copy the flowchart and component notes from the whiteboard into the software. By the time the meeting is over, the system is well on its way to completion. It's that simple!
Creating systems and processes that delight customers, bring about a happy and productive workforce, reduce frustration, and boost profit, is easy when you look at your business through the eyes of a Systems Thinker.
Now go pick a business system you are dying to improve, and have your first whiteboard discussion. As the song goes, "This could be the start of something big!"