I see many businesses on my travels that have attempted to implement systems to help them deliver their products and services. Some of these systems are computerised (such as CRM and MRP/ERP type system), some are visual and some are paper based. I believe that a system needs to be appropriate to the needs of the business, but the observation I make on a frequent basis is that we don’t stick to using our systems properly. Not using a system the way we design it leads to a reduction in the results we get from the system and the simplest way to get this back on track is to have an effective business routine.

I am not referring to a school timetable, rigidly keeping managers to a set schedule for every minute of their working day. I am referring to a looser approach, an outline of an effective week, or month, that combines discipline and habit with flexibility. A good routine will detail your agreements within the business as to how your system should operate. If you need to complete a certain task by end of play each Wednesday, then that is a Wednesday task. If every morning by 10am a report needs to be compiled and distributed that becomes a ‘daily before 10am’ task. Listing out these actions and creating a simple routine is not a difficult task to complete.

One of the benefits when you design a business routine is helping your staff to understand the knock on effects of their actions. If one department does not complete a task in a timely fashion they may not feel the consequences of their poor performance. The next department in the process may not even realise for a little while, but everyone will when the business wheels fall off and chaos ensues. Divergence from what is needed is a common occurrence. A little drop in doing what is needed each day for a couple of weeks can lead to a big enough gap in the business (such as a huge debtor list from a lack of management, poor supply of material due to a lack of action, or decreasing sales from not sticking to the marketing plan). When people understand the importance of their actions it helps to increase its ‘stickiness’ in the business.

Improving workplace habits is a common issue across most businesses. Whilst it is hard work to establish productive habits in a business, dropping habits is a far easier thing to do. Dropping habits often happens when a business’ workload increases and everyone gets stretched. Small, inconspicuous, tasks get dropped as the frenetic action takes over. Give this a few weeks, with no major incidents, and the habit gets lost. Having a routine to review periodically gives you a point of reference, to ensure that you don’t accidentally drop tasks that are important. Tying your routines to vital, recurring, management meetings can help you to trigger the right actions on a daily and weekly basis. Prevention really is better than cure!

Developing a routine is a simple affair, but the benefits can be significant. Identify what needs to happen when, and why, can have a profound effect on your staff along with your results. Work lives can be so busy that even just having a routine drawn out for a point of reference can be enough to keep you on track. If you don’t have a routine currently for your business then I urge you to get your team together and start thinking this through. It doesn’t have to be perfect on day one, but it is always interesting to find out what you should be doing that you have stopped doing…

 


Giles Johnston

Giles Johnston is a Chartered Engineer who consults with businesses to improve their on time delivery performance. Giles is also the author of 'Business Process Re-engineering'.