Archive for the 'Systems' Category

Simple?

I’ve always been a big fan of simplicity.  I like products, services, and technology that make my life simpler.  I especially love systems that simply processes for all involved.

I read a post on Kem Meyer’s blog a few months ago about simplicity that made a lot of sense.  Here are my favorite excerpts:

There’s always something you can simplify. In fact, I had one meeting today about simplifying our web site and have one scheduled for tomorrow about simplifying our volunteer sign-up process. In both cases, our current solution makes sense to us internally, but is stalling out externally. Instead of defending why we do it the way we do, we’re going to figure out what needs to change. That means we have some work to do.

Simple is smart and it’s hard work. Complicated is ignorant and it’s lazy. Just sayin’.

I love the line, “it makes sense to us internally, but is stalling out externally.”  It shows their willingness to simply the process not only for insiders, but also for outsiders – in their case, guests.  Often times it’s simpler for those on the inside to keep things the way they are, but if outsiders get lost on your website, in your store, can’t follow your concept, or are just plain confused by your system – maybe the best thing (for you and for them) is to make things simple for those on the outside.  The long-term growth and success of your organization, at some level, depends on outsiders.

The last line in the quote about is often one of the reasons that simplicity gets overlooked.  It’s hard work!  You have to plan, execute, evaluate, plan, execute, evaluate, plan, etc.  It might take you months or even years to make a process or a system simple for those on the outside.

Fred on Systems

Below is the final post in a short series of quotes from The Fred Factor that applied to areas of interest for me.  Here are some links in case you want to know more about the book and/or the author.  Today’s post examines the topic of Systems:

  • Simplify
  • Make it easier for people to get what they need from you.  Eliminate red tape and mind-numbing bureaucracy
    • Don’t create steps in your systems that don’t accomplish your end goal.
    • If there’s still a lot of bureaucracy, then maybe you need to re-examine the end goal.
  • …Think about the systems you are a part of.  You know how things work.  Where are the shortcuts?
  • What does an insider – that would be you – know that would benefit an outsider?
    • Try to remember your first interactions with your organization or other organizations and reflect on the sticking points that you encountered.
    • You can practice this both internally and externally.  Try to not only think about the external customer experience, but also the internal customer experience (i.e. employees, key leaders, or volunteers).  How easy was it to get connected?  Is the new hire orientation helpful or just a bunch of information like every other place you’ve worked?)
  • If you want to be of greater service to others, use your knowledge and expertise to help them understand what appears to be a complex and overwhelming situation.
    • This is especially true for those who are new, interacting with your organization for the first time, and may not know the “rules” yet.
  • Continually Create Value For Others
    • Are your systems designed to create value for those who interact with them?
    • Are people better off or worse off after they’ve interacted with your organization?
  • Increase your implementation quotient – It isn’t enough just to have good ideas if you don’t do something with them.
    • You have to actually do the hard work of implementing all the systems you think up in your meetings.

My good friend Casey Ross has some great posts about systems on his blog.  Here are two about systems and environments.  Be sure to look around at some of his other great posts while you’re there.

Planning to Win

A friend of mine called me the other day and wanted to know if I’d talk with him about strengthening his volunteer base.  I immediately began thinking about some simple steps that he could take.  I remembered that I could give a lot of practical steps, and there could be some improvement, but if there’s not a clear vision and the systems are not planned well, then much of that advice won’t matter.

I read this quote in a post by Shane Duffey:

Most people have the will to win, few have the will to prepare to win. – Bobby Knight

How you start matters – Your plan matterssystems matter.  If you fail to plan, you plan to fail (sorry for the cliche, but given the subject matter it had to be used).  If you don’t intentionally plan, then things aren’t going to happen.  Or worse, they’re going to happen, but you have no idea what the outcome is going to be.

I know, you can spend too much time on systems, structures, and planning, and never act.  There are people that have a hard time moving forward from this process, me included sometimes, but that’s no reason to adopt the ready, fire, aim approach.  For the sake of yourself, your mission, and those you lead, please do some solid planning on the front end, and continue to reevaluate regularly.

Road Map

Tony Morgan had a great post on his blog about a month ago entitled “Hierarchies Versus Paths.”  Organizations and leaders within them often have hierarchies created when people interact with them.  Customers, guests, visitors, etc. often get forced into the system and/or are bombarded with information about “how things work around here.”  Often times though, that’s not what the guest is after, they usually have a simple questions about how to get “from point A to point B.”  Check out the full post on Tony’s blog here – it’s definitely worth the time, and he’s a better communicator than I am.

So, where are you over-complicating an entry point or process in your organization?