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Sunday, 14 October 2012

Are Your Systems and Procedures Fit for Purpose? Check With an Internal User Group!

One of the less appetising functions of leadership is ensuring that all the systems, processes and procedures in the business actually work, and to the benefit of the customer, either external or internal.

Most leaders glaze over when the subject is ventilated because it just isn’t sexy and exciting.  The problem is, if the processes and procedures are not fit for purpose, then the overall effectiveness of the business suffers and often gives rise to unintended consequences.

I recall a client who, at the usual great expense, had installed a large, complicated and allegedly comprehensive software package which, as he hopefully said “would run the company” for him. 

It’s nice that people can have that touching faith on the ability of IT (or any other system for that matter) to deliver exactly what is needed, quickly and accurately and to produce reports which cover every aspect of the business.  Faith is one thing, reality is another especially when it comes to IT as we often find out to our cost. W

Once again we need to examine precisely why we are considering the systems and whether it is to engender efficiency or whether it is to run the business more effectively to the benefit of the customers.

The problem is that efficiency does not equate to effectiveness.

The overall result of a drive for efficiency is usually the production of a very thick rule book and consequently people in the business using it at every touch and turn to inhibit progress.

The whole point of efficiency (and I am sure that there will be experts who disagree) is to ensure that mistakes are never made which is a somewhat hopeful desire. 

The effect of an efficiency drive then is a slowing down of activity either while people make sure that they are conforming to the rule book or alternatively because they can consciously slow up for the same reason.

In the other hand, effectiveness means a reasonable and sensible approach to running the business with, as far as possible, a minimum of regulation and paying people the compliment of letting them get on with their jobs.

Of course there is danger in this style of leadership but in the end, it can be much more effective and gives the team the freedom to think and to take action in the best way possible for them and hence for the business.

One excellent way to engender this feeling is to set up user groups which meet from time to time to examine systems, processes and procedures and if at all possible dispose of some of them as well.

It is however vital that such meetings do not deteriorate into whingeing and moaning exercises at some poor IT (for example) specialist so always have a neutral facilitator to ensure that the discussions are positive and fruitful.

A modicum of LEAN thinking is always of value so that time taken, people involved and physical movements are all reduced as far as possible.

It is all matter of working to make the business more effective and consequently a better platform for profitable growth.
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