This is Challenge #21, showing up in Stage 4 and it is the building block to creating a foundation on which a company can grow.

To function effectively, a company must have day-to-day operations in place. This requires that leaders have a plan that outlines exactly what systems and procedures the company needs to grow. An important point to make as your CEO explores this challenge is this: while systems and procedures are critical for sustainability and scalability, ignoring or not prioritizing skill development and training for their staff will sabotage their efforts. People want to be trained and given time to get used to the new systems. Their success relies on not getting the system in place, but being able to utilize the system effectively.

Putting procedures, processes and/or systems in place can seem overwhelming to young organizations. There is a strong tendency to ignore the need for more sophisticated systems, especially if the CEO is the specialist who created the product or service. Their belief is often, “if I could get a high volume of work out when it was just me and a few people, why can’t we do the same today?” When activity levels increase tenfold; leaders tend to throw people at the activity. The irony is that more people create a more complex organization that is more difficult to manage. As a result of throwing people at the problem, the company ends up in another stage of growth before it is ready. The necessary systems to build a suitable infrastructure have not yet been created.

It’s much easier to decide something is a people issue than to determine it’s a process issue. For example, if clients complain that it takes too long to hear back from someone when they lodge a complaint, the leader may assume the person in charge of customer service is at fault or overstretched. Usually, the quick fix thinking is to just hire another customer service person because it’s a less expensive solution than implementing a CRM system. As with many other aspects of growing a successful business, the CEO needs a plan. They need to know what systems are important for the company, and he/she won’t know that unless he/she has run a similar type of company, looked for outside expertise or hired experienced managers who understand the problem.

Encourage your CEOs to ask:

  • What systems do you currently need for your stage of growth?
  • How do you define those systems and what exactly do you need them to do?
  • Have you set aside money to purchase, maintain and upgrade critical systems?
  • Have you planned time for training?
  • How do you know the systems in place are efficient?
  • Are any of the existing systems broken?

Those processes need to work every day no matter who is there, which is the real test of a system. If the lead supervisor is sick, does workflow come to a grinding halt? Who is responsible for the process from beginning to end? Who is responsible for documenting the process? Is it a plant manager, an account manager, a general manager? It doesn’t need to be a 100-page document. Help your CEOs teach their teams to capture the process at a high level, not every single aspect of every single process. Capture the basic critical steps with several bullet points under each step, which are procedures. The employees simply need a general guideline to follow and the managers need a reference point to double check that critical steps weren’t being missed or ignored.

Getting systems in place to help the company grow requires a culture that encourages people to not only identify areas that could be improved, but to step up and fix the issue right then. Problems exist in all companies and because the pace is often chaotic, people are left just putting band-aids on system and process issues, creating more frustration and more mistakes. Encourage your CEOs to have their managers sit down with the front-line staff and ask: What one improvement could we make to our project management system that would make your life easier? Or how about: If you were the CEO for a day, what immediate change would you make in how we manage our work processes?

Show your CEOs that for their own sanity, stop and engage. Show people that what they have to contribute is important and that the company cares about what they have to say. If customer complaints are increasing, talk about real examples. Then have the manager ask their staff what they would do to fix that issue. If shipments are consistently late, or inventory issues are impacting production schedules, ask for ideas on what can be done to fix it. Leaders and managers need to adopt the attitude: “we can solve any problem if we all work together.”

When the entire company is focused on making the product or service the best it can be, exceeding customer expectations and creating sustainable profit margins, a company is well poised to succeed.

Starting on page 196 in my Stage 4 book, Managing the Managers: How to Accelerate Growth Through People and Processes with 35 – 57 Employees, I explain how to turn people into system thinkers.  You can get your Stage 4 book at

Your Success. My Passion.

Laurie Taylor, FlashPoint!