Our High performance teams series has reached part 18 and today we look at part 3 of our pillar on Tools, namely Systems and Processes.
So far under this section, we've covered Scoreboards and Metrics and how you need to measure what you want to manage if you want to keep pushing the dial on performance. We then moved to Hardware and Collateral that your people have at their disposal to do their jobs.
In this episode, I outline:
- How to use systems and processes to gain a competitive advantage;
- How you can optimise your team’s performance;
- How you can overcome some resistance from the people in your team by creating freedom within a framework;
- Why the use of systems and processes will help you lead any team in any job.
Why do we need systems and processes?
If you are in a leadership position and you're finding that growth has stalled or going backwards, or you're having to put out fires all the time and you just can't seem to get to the bottom of what is wrong with what is happening in the team, it's fairly likely that the systems and processes that you've got in your team can be improved.
The hardest thing about this is that you either don't know the next move or have low confidence in any of your options.
Edwards Deming, an expert on process excellence, had this to say: “If you can't describe what you're doing as a process, you do not know what you're doing.”
Sometimes we get so caught up in the doing that we haven't actually worked out what real process we're following. Or there are small parts of the process that you've never really documented and this might be the root cause of some major error or system degradation.
By getting process excellence correct and in place, you can make the work of your people easier and more effective. Furthermore, you will have a lot more clarity on the points of failure, whether they are a systems or people issue, and by refining these, you will naturally improve performance.
Therefore, this pillar of Tools is really about giving you confidence in decision-making and doing so with accuracy.
So how do we go about this? Let’s look at 3 ways.
Step 1: Look at the pain points of your business
By doing this, you’ll find that there are certain areas where there are consistent breakdowns of performance (eg. slow turnaround times or delivery quality). Look at the way the team operates, map out the processes, do time and motion studies if you need to.
It doesn’t matter what department you’re in, you will have systems and processes and you’ll, therefore, have performance issues. My advice is to have a read of a great book called The Goal, by Eliyahu Goldratt and Jeff Cox.
The whole global movement of lean six sigma and lean manufacturing is based on process excellence and getting the right systems and processes to work together. It is incredibly powerful. At the very least, go and learn about business process management.
Step 2: Optimise your current systems and processes
If you’re looking to do a system replacement or overhaul, you’ll need to get familiar with your current platforms and their effectiveness and efficiency. Firstly, optimise them to the nth degree to a point where you can say, “There's no point optimising any further. We know the system processes, we know all the process maps that go with it and we've done everything we can to improve. This particular part of our business is now optimised.”
Once you’ve done that, only then can you make the decision about a new system or process. You’ll then need to perform a cost-benefit analysis to uncover whether it is worth it, especially if you have to pitch to an investment committee.
Step 3: Make a business case for a new system
Remember, your goal as a leader is to develop a great track record of making the right calls on these sorts of issues. If you can hand-on-heart say you’ve done all the correct analysis and optimisations, you will then have the credibility to win over the decision-makers.
You’ll be able to confidently say, “We've got to the point where we really can't improve much more unless there's a new system going in. This is going to cost this much and this is the benefit it will give us from a service delivery timing and a cost perspective, and this is what it will mean for the bottom line of the organisation.”
As I’ve alluded to in a previous minisode, the organisation you work for will likely be measured against their return on capital expenditure. So don't take systems and processes lightly; it’s a wonderful skill to obtain and develop. And when you get it right, you can lead any team in any industry or profession.
It can also unite the team behind improving and getting things better; the right system or process can release people and give them the freedom to do their job within a framework that helps your team – and therefore the organisation – achieve their strategic objectives.