Systems get a bad name. They’re restrictive. They stifle initiative and creativity. They’re a burden on energy and time. All of which is true … of bad systems. Which is the problem. Bad systems representing systems in general.
Good systems stifle needless chaos. They ensure consistency and trust in how things are done, and they free you to lift your head and see the bigger picture. They do require development, and that can be time-consuming. But the time saved overall and the momentum generated by finishing tasks in order can’t be replaced.
The Nature of Good Systems
This goes without saying: If your systems aren’t working, if you wind up serving them rather than being served, they need to change. They might need to change entirely, or you might need only to refine what you have.
Systems are meant to make your work scalable and to free you from moment-to-moment decision making. If you already know what comes next after the task you’re working on – and you know because you’ve planned ahead – you don’t have to waste time deciding what to do when you’re finished. Multiply the time saved after one task by all the tasks you have, and what you’ve gained through planning – the freedom and the time – is considerable.
All that leads to this – you need them. From one-person shops to six-figure manufacturers, you need systems and you need plans. You need to be open to changing, but more importantly, you need to do a couple of things many people don’t:
- You need to plan to the last detail; and
- You need stick to your plans.
Planning and Follow-Through Are Your Daily Legacy
Think of your plans, at the micro and macro levels, as how-to’s. If someone only vaguely aware of your processes needed to do what you do, could they?
Think of them, also, as agreements among the people involved:
- Certain things will happen at certain times and they’ll be done, and perhaps signed off on, by a person in a specific role.
- Hand-offs are clearly defined.
- At the next step in the process, the person responsible will be able to trust that previous steps were completed according to plan.
Planning to the Last Detail
One of the problems with most plans is that they weren’t ever finished. They got to the 85% point and they stalled. Too much was left assumed or penciled in.
The truth is, plans and systems need to be frustratingly, painfully literal and complete. Check out this experiment in process, called “Making a Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich,” conducted by the Computer Science Department at MIT. Instructions that seemed complete to the programmers who wrote them in the early stages of the experiment allowed for putting unopened jars of peanut butter and jelly between two pieces of bread and pressing them together.
Learning to Let Go
Trusting the system means you need to know how to let go. At Botanie, one of our core principles has always been to stay scrappy – finding ways to get things done even when tools and circumstances aren’t ideal or enough.
It’s served us well, but as we grow, we discover that doing things yourself whenever possible – an essential part of staying scrappy – isn’t necessarily the best choice anymore. Doing office renovation or server maintenance yourself might no longer be the best use of your time when you could be planning a new-product introduction. Whether the solution is to hire or to out-source, the important thing is to know when systems need to change. For comprehensive information on growing your soap business, click here for a free eBook.
The Choice is Pretty Simple
Plans and systems can be your best friends in business, but you need to put in the time to make them good systems. Good systems will set you free. Bad systems will chain you down and waste your time. Like many things, you get out what you put in. With plans and systems, make sure what you put in serves you well.