Work Your System

Jan 25, 2014

In Sam Carpenter's book, Work the System: The Simple Mechanics of Making More and Working Less, he writes that “quality products or services, a stable staff, and profitability are the result of quality systems that underlie them, not the reverse" (p. 25). His point throughout this chapter is that systems and the mechanisms within those systems are responsible for preventing problems long before they occur.

If we measure the wrong things, or measure nothing at all, we will likely ignore the wrong behaviors.  tapemeasuregraph.jpg
If our car is running rough, we generally take it to the mechanic for a tune-up and hopefully commit to scheduled maintenance. If a piece of software continually fails us, we upgrade or switch programs. If human capital is the biggest asset in our business, (hopefully you think so) why do we fail to get a tune-up, invest in ongoing maintenance, or upgrade to something else when need be?

Peter Drucker and others are credited with the mantra that what gets measured, gets done. Leadership trainer John E. Jones added, "What gets measured gets done. What gets measured and fed back gets done well. What gets rewarded gets repeated."

So why are we as business owners generally afraid of measurement and good performance management systems on our most important asset? Here are some of the answers we hear:

  • I don't have time
  • We haven't checked in with our staff often enough
  • It’s just an awkward conversation (typically because we are unsure what we are measuring)

Whether we call them Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) or Management by Objectives (MBOs), these are basic metrics agreed upon by both management and employees, essential to the growth and sustainability of your business. These objectives are measurable, actionable, and objective. These are the metrics by which you measure services or processes for which someone is responsible.

How do you get started?

Here are your three easy steps:

#1 Gather your team and work collaboratively to determine what indicators are important. When you gather your team, don't have the sales team meet separate from the administrative team, for example. Some of the best solutions may come from someone in a different department.

#2 Again, with your team, determine how data around the indicators can be easily collected. If the mechanism for this system does not already exist, create one that is easy to implement and accessible to your team.

#3 With your team, discuss the results at least monthly to review and make changes to these indicators until you are satisfied.

This is a system you can implement to prevent problems and keep things running smooth so you can focus on your core business.


Please add a comment

Posted by Michael on
This is a great article, thank you! These are certainly things I should implement before moving into the new year and helps me really think about systematizing some parts of my business. It is hard to be gone when others don't know what to do or how to do it. Putting these things in place, while difficult at first, can really help me free up some time to work on my business, rather than in my business, and who knows, maybe even give me some free time. Thanks for the info!
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