A skunk as you know is something that stinks, and nearly all businesses have them. No, I’m not talking about issues with personal hygiene - your skunks are in your operation, your customer journey, your hiring.
So what does a skunk look like?
It looks like something that isn’t adding value to your business and may be actively detracting from it:
Imagine that you’ve only got one person trained on an aspect of your business and you haven’t got what they do recorded, as a How To, a system which anyone could follow. What happens when this person is sick or on holiday? Things don’t get done or not done to the standard you expect. Often it’s the business owner who has struggled to delegate, not willing to give up ‘their’ tasks for fear of losing control.
I smell a skunk!
Say for example you had a problem with quality, so you added a layer of checking and that’s continued for several years. But you’ve never reviewed it since, to see if it’s still necessary. Quality has improved so you’ve left well alone. But what if the problem was fixed at source through recruitment, training or development and the checker has not found a problem in twelve months? It’s wasting time and money and robbing people of taking pride in their work. It’s a skunk.
Waste really stinks and it’s the little things that collectively can reek. When was the last time you found yourself asking, ‘Has anyone seen the xxx?’ Who was last to use the xxx I can’t find it anywhere?’ Or think of a time you couldn’t go straight to a file you were after online.
‘A place for everything and everything in its place.’
I love the factory idea of a place for everything and a picture of what should be there. (I imagine its what a Japanese garage looks like rather than my own!)
Waste also occurs when we reinvent the wheel; I know I’ve been guilty of it. You know those tasks you do infrequently where you think, ‘How the devil did I do this last time?’ And you waste time going round the houses to get it done. And you’re saying to yourself I really must make a note of this for next time but then you’re so relieved it’s done and your to do list is so long…. so it’s left till next time and round you go again.
How often have you added a step in a procedure without really getting down to the root cause of the problem. That sort of analysis and investigation takes a bit of time and you’re after a quick fix so you just throw money at it. But unless you’re lucky, meddling isn’t fixing. Similarly automating a process without first streamlining it can simply automate inefficiency.
Have you ever recruited someone because they weren’t exactly who you were after but they were the best of the bunch and it was an expensive process? How has that worked out? They might have worked out well but if not, how expensive has that been to your business?
As a customer just think of the last time you were infuriated by the hoops you had to jump through to get service. My pet one is telling someone your tale of woe having queued for twenty minutes on the phone only to be told that someone else has to help you and you’re back in the queue again and then having to re-tell the story… You feel yourself losing the will to live and, unless it’s a service or product you really want, you just walk away.
Solutions for skunks
I know it’s tempting to just kill a skunk when you spot one, and a quick fix will work for some skunks. But if you route one out at the beginning of a process it may have a knock on effect down the line.
What you need is that helicopter view of your whole business, starting with a ‘warts and all’ look at your Customer Journey. Working through the journey from start to end, ideally with your team, will show you the inefficiencies, the blocks and the weaknesses; you’ll be able to see how something at the beginning of the journey is causing a problem further down the line; or how you are a block at a crucial point.
With the whole picture in front of you, you can then make a plan to kill off your skunks, one by one.
Your business will never have smelled so good!
Do one thing: Take the Systems Scorecard and find out where the skunks may be lurking in your business.
I’ve always loved team sports, whether I’m playing them or watching them. Watching them always incurs listening to the pundits and of course with the football season underway we’re awash with analysis. I have to admit that I do enjoy it; I love the insight and the banter. Sometimes, worryingly, I find myself joining in, particularly when I disagree. Anyway, moving swiftly on!
Something that resonated with me recently was the pundits’ view that a winning team needs a strong spine. The idea is that if you have a strong spine from goalkeeper, through centre back, centre midfield and up to your centre forward it will:
And it struck me that in business that strong spine is your process. Having a strong spine of simple, logical, repeatable systems and procedures that everyone in your team follows, allows the whole team to be creative, to stamp their personality on your operation, within a structure. It means that every team member knows what to do when problems arise, they trust in the system. It gives you that agility too to take advantage of sudden opportunities.
It’s about being able to do things on auto pilot because you know the system; you’ve been drilled in it, you know that your team mates know it too, so you trust that they will be where they should be when you need them. Great systems can give great results even when you haven’t got the top superstars.
Of course who you have in each position in your business is still important. You want to recruit to your Vision and Values, team players, people passionate about the customer experience. But it’s the systems that run your business, your people who run the systems. That’s how it should be in business, your systems so well entrenched that when you lose someone to holiday, sickness, maternity leave, your well-oiled machine just keeps on moving forward.
If you’re not into football analogies then think about what Pilates or Yoga does for your body. It gives you a strong core which gives you strength, balance and agility. Continuing to develop great systems in your business is like your weekly Pilates class. Both need you to commit the time and money to their development. The rewards are worth every second of the time you put in.
Do One Thing: Download this free chapter (below) from Marianne’s Amazon bestseller, ‘Simple Logical Repeatable’ to discover more.
Thanks for reading. Have a great week!
You must have seen the arcade game Whack A Mole* which is all about smacking cute little moles on the head as they peep out of their holes. Fun game! Just as you knock one back another appears and another, and another… until your time, or your money, runs out. Fun, but infuriating!
Do you ever feel like that game mirrors your work - maybe your whole life?
Always fixing the latest problem, always dealing with mini or sometimes major crises?
Of course, for those of you in love with the struggle this is all part of the game, part of what you love about being in business. Fire-fighting can be fun!
A crisis occurs and we rush in and save the day. It’s high-octane, high-energy and a great adrenaline rush. As Deming said,
‘One gets a good rating for fighting a fire; the result is visible; can be quantified. If you do it right the first time, you are invisible. You satisfied the requirements. That is your job. Mess it up, and correct it later, you become a hero.’
I'm sure you're not old enough to remember public service broadcasts! They were like adverts only non-commercial, aimed purely at educating and informing the apparently 'not too bright' population of Britain at the time.
Anyway, there was one about a family whose water pipes had burst. It showed how the father had all the family trained to go through a well-rehearsed, well-drilled process of dealing with it - turn off stop cock, get buckets under leak, mop up water with old towels...
At the end of the ad a smug father and his family stand there proudly, crisis overcome. And just as you’re thinking that it's their well-drilled 'crisis management' that's being recommended, an even smugger voiceover pipes up, ‘Well done Mr Mole, but what a pity you let it happen in the first place!’
Fire-fighting can be fun. But! What if our time or money runs out?
It isn't sustainable, it's a waste of our resources, and it's certainly not good for our reputation - with our team or our customers.
Yes, some fire-fighting is inevitable; there will always be the knowns and the unknowable, the controllable and the uncontrollable. No matter how much we plan or anticipate the future there will always be a certain level of uncertainty.
But - if you're constantly fire-fighting, if every business day is a game of Whack A Mole, then maybe it's time to call in MPL pest control* and get some preventative systems in place.
We don’t kill moles, but we do prevent them from digging up your business.
Do one thing: Look back over the last couple of months and check out how much mole-whacking you’ve done. Think about how having systems in place for each area of your business could have prevented this and saved you and your business time and money.
If you need help, our intensive two-day Systems4Scale Bootcamp is for you! To find out more information you can download our brochure here.
Thanks for reading. Have a great week!
*no moles were harmed in the writing of this article.
I’ve seen a number of posts recently about parents proudly and perhaps anxiously getting their kids to school for their first day. It’s that time again; new beginnings. For some their first day at a new school or college. For others their first day in a new role or a new job; maybe their first ever job?
Can you remember back to one of your first days? We’ve all had at least one.
So what was it like?
Were you over-awed, bored or just completely bewildered?
Did you take in every word that was said, or did you go home on a caffeine-high with a numb bum?
I’d love to think you had a great day and came away buzzing with drive and energy dying to tell your other half, mum or dad what a great day you had and how excited you were about the future.
That’s what you want for the individuals joining YOUR team, but is that what happens?
A new recruit’s First Day is your opportunity to make a great first impression. It’s your chance to get a new team member excited about their future with you, to understand what’s expected of them, and get a feel for what’s possible.
First impressions count, and that applies to your team members too. Usually the focus is on giving lots of information; we’ve all been there suffering the slow death by power-point. When what’s really important is to give heaps of inspiration.
Yes, there are some very basic things you have to get across to them - where the toilets are, the fire procedure, where everyone goes for lunch maybe, but keep these as brief and to the point as possible.
The things that are going to inspire them are:
Think about splitting your day into 3 short sections:
If you look at your content and think it’s way too much to take in, then cut it. You want to avoid overload and get most value from their time, and your own, and besides, you don’t have to tell them everything about your business on day one.
Your aim should be for that first day to reflect what you and your business are all about. I’m not talking a song and dance routine, but you want it to be full of high energy, passion and creativity, and as interactive as you can make it.
We’ve got a great little worksheet to help structure your new recruit’s first day, and to make it memorable for all the right reasons.
Do one thing: Download our free worksheet below
Thanks for reading. Have a great week!
Marianne is the author of three books, and is currently working on her fourth, whilst regularly writing her blog, we hope you enjoy it :-)