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Value Creation Blog

Designing Systems? Make Sure You Keep Them Simple

Posted by Josh Patrick

systems copyThis is something I ask of many of the people I work with.  Privately held businesses know they need to grow systems as they get larger.  I bet that if you’ve started to develop systems in your company you started off being way too detailed.  If you didn’t give up putting systems in place you probably found that less detail actually got you better results.

We only can keep a few things at a time in our mind.  If we ask people to remember pages of information it’s not likely to happen very well.  The secret to great systems is to have just enough detail: not too little and not too much.

Do you really know what’s important?

You need to start out writing what’s really important versus what you might just think is important.  Remember, when you’re developing systems you shouldn’t try to cover everything that could possibly happen.  You’re only trying to cover the really important things.

Systems that you develop should be organic.  You have to be willing to have them grow and you also have to be willing to cut out certain things.  You don’t want to be like the government: They only seem to have the ability to add regulations, and it’s a real challenge for them to cut anything.  Don’t let his happen to you.

Write it like it’s for a fifth grader.

If you can’t write it on one page, it’s likely too complicated for anyone to understand.  Write like you’re talking with a fifth grader.  If you have children at home or children you can borrow ask them to read your instructions and see if they know what to do.

Writing at a high level is something we think needs to happen.  If you’ve ever read IRS or OSHA regulations you probably know what I’m talking about.  I don’t know about you, but when I read those instructions I’m never sure about what I’m supposed to do.  More often than not I just walk away confused.  Don’t let this happen with your employees.

Important things will remind you about minor issues.

Keep your systems and the instructions for them brief.  Cover only really important things.  You’ll find the minor stuff just gets filled in. 

One way of making sure you take care of keeping things brief is to use bullet point instructions.  Better yet, make a checklist out of what you want your people to do.  If you do decide to use a checklist, make sure there are no more than 8 to 10 things on your list.  If you can have it be less than five, better yet.

We can only remember so many things.

The more complicated you make a system, the more likely it won’t be used.  We can only remember so many things at once.  There’s a reason phone numbers are only ten digits.  We can’t keep fifteen numbers in our head at once.

Help yourself and help your employees deliver great service that’s the same every single time.  To do this you’re going to have let go of the details you would like to have. I know my goal is to make our customer experience a great one, and if I can keep the instructions simple I have a much better chance of hitting my goals.

One of the skills that you might want to learn is how to budget effectively.  I’ve written a special report on simplified budgeting.  This report will keep your budget and strategic plan to four pages.  It allows you to develop a simple and easy to communicate method for putting what’s important for your business on paper and is a great way for your employees to learn what’s important to you.  To get this report, click on the button below.


Securities and Investment Advisory Services offered through NFP Securities, Inc. (NFPSI), Member FINRA/SIPC. Stage 2 Planning Partners and NFPSI are not affiliated.

This article is published for residents of the United States only.  Registered Representatives and Investment Adviser Representatives of NFP Securities, Inc. may only conduct business with residents of the states and jurisdictions in which they are properly registered.  Therefore, a response to a request for information may be delayed.  Not all of the products and services referenced on this site are available in every state and through every representative or advisor listed.

Topics: systems, for business owners, value creation

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