Before I started Roundpeg, I was the head of a Creative Services department. On any given week, the team of 48 professionals handled about 600 open projects. Keeping track of who was doing what, how close we were to critical deadlines, where our road blocks were and what we needed to focus on was no small task.
We were able to stay on top of all the activity because we had great systems in place. There were procedures for new product launches, simple redesigns and straight reprints. We had rules for file names, approval procedures and even envelop and file folder colors. These clear, step-by-step processes allowed us to bring new people up to speed quickly and created a common language so team leaders could track their projects and give me quick updates.
When I left the corporate world behind, I thought I would never need to worry about that level of detail again. I was wrong. Even when it was only me, Iquickly realized I would need a way of organizing my projects so I could find things a year or two down the road.
I started building filing systems which made sense to me. They worked fine for the first few years when there were only two or three people at the ‘Peg. The problem? Not everyone thinks like me and I am not around every day to explain what I am thinking. Also, what works for two or three people doesn’t work as well when four, five, six or more people are involved.
In recent months we have brought on several new people and the systems were breaking down. We needed to streamline and clarify processes so it is easier for everyone on to the team to do what they do best.
Here are some of the things we are doing to build procedures which are appropriate now, but will also grow with us:
Create a list of procedures – We are looking at everything from where we put a copy of a customer’s logo to who is responsible for making sure the daily blog post gets scheduled.
Tackle each task individually – We are not going to write a complete set of instructions in one sitting. Instead we are going to look at each part of our process and break it down into smaller steps.
Where do we start? That’s easy. Like any manufacturing process we look for the bottle necks, the places where things are bogging down or slipping through the cracks. Once we fix one issue the next one becomes obvious.
Document, discuss and test – Writing procedures down is hard for me because I am not a “formal structure” kind of person. The process of physically documenting important procedures will help me break my bad habits. If the business is going to grow beyond me I have to take what is in my head and put it on paper so someone else can do the tasks in my absence.
However, it is not enough to just outline the process. They team must buy in. They will tell you if the process you created will actually work. You may also discover things don’t really get done the way you envisioned. In some cases the process turns out to be better or maybe you discover there are steps you have left out.
Periodically review – Run with the process for a few cycles and see if it really works. Some processes cycle every day, others only come up once a month. Create reminders to review the process after a few cycles. Then move on to another process.
In a few months, or after a new team member joins the organization, check the process again. Is it still working? If not you have some work to do.
This is not something you get to set and forget, it needs to be as vibrant as your business plan, continually updated and refined. To continue to grow you need to get better at what do and be able to easily transfer that knowledge to others.
If the goal is to grow a business which will run without you, your procedure manuals are the foundation on which that business will be built.