Over the last few years, spurred by the financial meltdown of 2007 and global recession of 2008, productive companies have connected some dots that their slower and less adaptable competitors have not. The most successful companies understand that to make every part of business more reliable, productive and teachable, to quickly and dramatically speed things up and improve results for customers, workers and leadership, they need to systematize everything.
The steps of systematization are standard for any job at any level. Productive companies start with a clear, specific, and measurable outcome and then examine the actions that currently produce the outcome, consulting data and history and looking for waste (of time or money) or gaps in the outcomes achieved. Then, by asking lots of questions, considering a lot of fresh ideas and consulting its guiding principles, the company aims to map out the best way to get to a desired outcome. Good systems have four components:
- They offer the best way to achieve a specific outcome.
- They require that everyone receive training.
- They don’t allow deviation.
- They offer a baseline for continual improvement.
Here are five simple steps that guarantee the closest thing to flawless follow-through anybody has ever seen:
1. Involve the Top Dogs. There are three critical reasons why the top man or woman must be part of the systematization efforts: They and they alone negotiate the expectations outside the firm; they have the power to protect the tender green shoots of success; the CEO must
also be the CGO — Chief Grit Officer. Grit is the ability to maintain momentum long after the mood has passed.
2. Select Your Fastest People. Eighty-three percent of people will sit on their hands at the introduction of any change in routine. Once you’ve decided to launch your systematization overhaul, you need to find enough 17 percenters to pitch in and make it work. They’re the
people who welcome change, show initiative and are the first ones to raise their hands and shout, “Pick me, boss, pick me!”
3. Choose a “Wow” Event. To melt resistance and get people off their hands, you need a powerful success story, one that will make people believe in the power of systematization
and get them amped to apply systematization in other parts of the business. It can be small, just not insignificant. The idea is to get people to say, “Wow.”
4. Follow Through Quickly. Cooler-town is the space in the break room around the water-cooler. That’s where politicians hold their whispering town halls, explaining to anyone who will listen why things can’t change and won’t work out as leadership wants. By nature, these people move slowly and hate speed. So when you actually follow through fast, you can catch them flat-footed. Before they are able to create fear, uncertainty and doom, you’ve already provided real examples of success and exuberant advocates from your organization’s rank and file.
5. Always Let the Best Idea Win: Search for good ideas relentlessly. Ask, “Who has solved this problem or a problem with similar features?” and bring in outside voices. Adopt an inquiry mode of discovery, asking yourself and your team questions that draw out possibilities rather than shut down people who express unconventional opinions. Ban negativity in your problem-solving discussions. Statements like “I’m fundamentally opposed to that” or “We tried that and it didn’t work” or “Let me play devil’s advocate” have no place in this world