Systems and contrtols pt. 2, when, how to utilize them

Last month we discussed why you need systems and controls, and offered suggestions for types of controls you can build into your business. Now we want to discuss when you need them and how to make them “stick.”

Obviously, if you created a checklist or step-by-step procedures policy for every single task performed in your business, you’d never get much done. You’d basically be controlling your company to death. But structured procedures and policies are often needed to ensure the safety, quality and efficiency of your operations.

Here are some guidelines for when systems and controls are needed:

In the case of repetitive, multi-step procedures that are crucial to your operation. These are situations when details are critical for successful completion of tasks. With multiple-step processes, it can be easy to forget an important step and or overlook something that’s critical.

When you want to ensure consistency in your work product. As a teenager, Laddie worked at McDonald’s. He’s always remembered their procedures for ensuring that food was cooked exactly the same way, in the same amounts, every single time. Whether you’re producing hamburgers, manufacturing widgets, or providing a service, systems and controls can help maintain quality and consistency.

When a mistake or accident can be disastrous and costly. The old saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” rings true here. It’s especially important to create systems and controls when someone could be injured, or worse, if a mistake occurred. It’s far better to implement systems to reduce mistakes and accidents than risk someone being injured or killed, or huge financial losses.

If you’re constantly frustrated by how work is being performed. This is a common complaint we hear from clients and a great reason to put systems and controls in place. When employees understand procedures are in place that must be followed, it helps alleviate stress and frustration for everyone involved. They understand what’s expected of them and you aren’t continually pulling out your hair.

When you have a problem with valuable materials or equipment “disappearing.” Whether from being misplaced, accidentally left behind at a worksite, or outright employee theft, systems and controls can help curb these types of problems. When employees are provided with procedures and rules to follow, and know they’ll be held accountable for breaking them, these types of incidences are typically reduced.

When you want or need to free up your time. Business owners frequently find their lives consumed by their companies, which can lead to burn-out, health problems and family issues. By instituting standardized systems and procedures for certain functions, you should be able to move some of your responsibilities to someone else.

Once you’ve determined where systems and controls are needed, created policies and procedures for those areas, and implemented them, how do you make them stick?

First and foremost, you must set the example and follow the rules yourself. If you have a policy that employees shouldn’t use their computers for personal purposes during work hours or wear overly casual attire to the office, they shouldn’t see you checking your Facebook page and wearing flip-flops. Your employees will always look to you to set the example.

You should also present systems and controls in a positive light. Explain to your staff that their jobs will ultimately be easier, safer and better, and the whole company will function more smoothly and profitably if everyone adheres to the new procedures.

When creating systems and controls, let your staff participate in the process. They know better than anyone else the different steps involved in their jobs. They’ll feel more respected and, in turn, have more respect for your new guidelines if they help to create them.

Once in place, systems and controls need to be enforced. That’s not to say you should implement a “Big Brother” atmosphere, in which case you’ll have unhappy and less productive employees. But when employees blatantly or repeatedly fail to follow procedures or rules, they should have consequences. These could range from reprimanding them verbally and placing documentation in their personnel file to actually firing them, depending on the type of infraction.

Finally, you should let your staff know you appreciate their efforts when they adhere to the systems and controls. Positive reinforcement will improve employee morale and make them want to follow the rules and procedures.

Carefully thought out and implemented systems and controls can make a huge difference in how smoothly and efficiently your company operates. They can increase your profitability, minimize mistakes, and reduce your stress and headaches. Simply put, a business with controls is in control.

Laddie and Judy Blaskowski are partners in several businesses, including BusinessTruths Consulting. They are authors of The Step Dynamic: A Powerful Strategy for Successfully Growing Your Business. Judy@BusinessTruths.com.