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What’s Your System Discipline Like?

In last month’s update we discussed having a healthy business information system, and how we need to ensure that the information in the system is correct, either through a better understanding of why the system needs to operate in a certain manner, or through better training. Following on from this is the need to establish specific disciplines, or habits, that make keeping a healthy business information system in place easier.

There are number of methods to help you put in place the habits needed to operate you business systems. Most of these ideas (whether visual, team based or electronic) require some form of defined routine to give them direction. If you think back to your school time table you will recall that people knew where they needed to be at what time, and what the subject was. I’m not suggesting that your team needs to endure the absolute rigidity of a timetable like this, but some form of structure about what tasks / processes need to happen and when can do a lot to help improve the performance of a department or business, especially one that is subject to a ‘volatile’ workload.

When we’re under pressure, one of the first things that happens is our good habits decay. We rush to get things done, we elect to miss out a couple of steps in the process, or worse, we forget to complete certain steps. If there are no repercussions for the steps being missed then we might end up with our behaviours changing over time and ultimately a new (unofficial) process in place.

To prevent this decay of standards, we need to find ways to remind us whether we are doing the right things or not. I mentioned a couple of things earlier; visual (such as the fabled Kamishibai board), team based (start of day team meeting, standard meeting agendas etc…) or electronic (calendar based, workflow management software etc…). The important point to note is that we need to create a routine and then make it part of our working consciousness to ensure that we don't  neglect to undertake the essential business tasks in the first place!

If you are in the position to create some flexible routines for your business then it might also be worth considering the key performance indicators (KPIs) that drive your business. If you have ‘process’ KPIs then these mid-process checks can help assure you that all of the essential tasks are being completed in an appropriate manner.

I hope you can see the benefits of this type of thinking, whether you are doing this already or not. Creating effective routines for your business is not about tying people down to a process, it is intended to create enough structure and repeatability that the core business processes run in the way they were designed; to deliver high quality products and services efficiently, on time and profitably.

Giles Johnston
Author, Consultant and Chartered Engineer

P.S. As usual, if you want to discuss any of the items in this update then please get in touch -