Business Coaching: Systems – Why They Work and Why They Don’t

Business coaching proves again and again that change is hard. We are creatures of habit. But without change, businesses can’t grow. So it stands to reason that one of the biggest challenges facing growing businesses is managing the implementation of new systems within the organisation.

What do I mean by systems?

Whether it’s a manual paper process or a large-scale IT project, systems are the procedures, processes, methods and courses of action that are designed to achieve a specific result. A well-designed system connects parts of the organisation, team members and the interrelated steps necessary to achieve business strategy. While small businesses often operate on the instinctual decisions of the business owner, as the business grows, decisions and processes need to operationalised to facilitate delegation and role responsibility for the team.

The benefits of systems

• Well-designed systems that solve repeated business issues make the organisation more efficient.
• They give the business owner an opportunity to keep a finger on the pulse of the business at all times.
• Business risk is mitigated when processes and procedures are followed.
• Systems facilitate results that are consistent, predictable and measurable.
• Ultimately, they allow your business to be more profitable.

So why do systems fail?

• There is not enough input from the customers or employees when the system is developed. If you want to operationalise the routine, you need to talk to the people who actually perform the task. This not only ensures that the system will improve the current process, but also creates buy-in from employees.

• There is not enough clarity on the system. Processes need to be formalised, in writing, and not implemented by word of mouth. If the steps are not clear, or if they are too complex, your team won’t use it. Very complex processes need to be broken down into more manageable sub-systems.

• A lack of ownership, responsibility and reporting. New systems need an owner who drives the implementation of the process. It needs full endorsement from above as a business priority, and it needs a deadline.

• Inadequate training. Resistance to change is often a result of employees feeling incompetent while they are learning the new process. Proper training, manuals, instructions and patience is required to implement new systems. Expect a temporary drop in productivity while everyone gets to grips with the new process.

• Linked to feelings of incompetence are feelings of uncertainty and fear that the new system may expose poor performance and that the data or feedback may be used to punish people rather than improve performance. Rather than overcoming the fear, the team may (often unconsciously) look for reasons for it to fail. Implementing new systems requires sensitivity and encouragement. Those required to use it need to understand the benefits of the system to them personally. Communicate these positive consequences and be sure to take time to address any concerns employees may have, to help relieve their fears.

• Sometimes systems fail because the team is required to behave differently. New systems often necessitate new beliefs and behaviours. When the change in beliefs and behaviours is too massive, the new system is doomed to fail from the beginning. If your employees don’t bother filling in manual timesheets, they are unlikely to start doing it online or on a new app.

If your businesses is ready to grow, it’s time to implement systems to facilitate the growth. Let me help you manage the change.

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