Tom Chiarella wrote a feature article for Esquire about Bill Clinton in Haiti. The article is great, but one point in particular resonated with thoughts that a small businessperson should consider. Here's what Bill Clinton told Tom:
"Really poor people, people in really poor places, don't have predictably good outcomes for good behaviors. It's a disorienting experience. Poor countries need predictability," he says. "In Haiti, we have to build systems."
Tom said back: "Systems. This makes sense. No one in Haiti seems to believe there are any reliable systems, except perhaps cell-phone coverage and mango distribution."
The Need for Systems
We don't really think much about systems, especially in the beginning. We're just struggling to get something in place. We do what works. We do that a bit more. We work harder and longer on solving problems for our customers (and often in our own production methods). But at some point, we need to drop into focusing on systems that will help with some level of predictability.
The very nature of the word "predictability" is unsexy. And yet, we want things to be predictable. We want our brakes to work every time we press them. We want our house to be where we left it (okay, maybe not the RV crowd). And our buyers want their experience to be predictable.
Systems Can Be Light/Simple
Where we go wrong is in how we implement systems. We make them too cumbersome or too rigid. But it doesn't have to be that way. In fact, the best systems are the simplest. "Keep the store front in photo-worthy shape by doing 5 minute clean-ups and straightens once an hour" is a fairly simple system. How you TRAIN it, of course, makes all the difference (both to yourself and your employees).
What's the happy medium? Systems should be simple guideposts to how you want the business to function and how you want your products and services delivered, but they should also match the potential learners that will be operating those systems. Meaning, if you're working with unskilled people, you might have to spell out more. If you're working with creatives, you want the systems to have breathing room. Make sense?
What's Your Take?
How have systems worked for you (or not) in the past? What do you see as a benefit or a drawback to systems? And what's in place now for you?