172: Systems and Standard Operating Procedures for Your Business
Systems and Standard Operating Procedures may not be the sexiest things in business, but they are critical to any business’ success!
That’s why when I started working on a recent project I knew I couldn’t keep it to myself: this is the start of me sharing the exact project plan, brainstorming exercises, and implementation steps I’m taking in order to create systems and standard operating procedures throughout our entire business.
*Update 1: Tune in to my update episode covering steps 3 & 4 below!
Starting a major project
As is the case with anything that comes to life in your business, the first step necessary is to decide that you actually want to work on a particular project.
I’ve been creating systems in our business since the beginning, but something I haven’t ever taken a step back to brainstorm and create: standard operating procedures for everything we do.
I’d been thinking about this a lot because in the past couple of years we’ve been able to launch some pretty amazing free courses, online communities, and even a second physical journal (The Mastery Journal) based on our knowledge from previous projects.
Because we’ve documented the steps we took in each case, we’ve been able to recreate that same success with different topics and in different areas of our business without having to start from scratch.
So now I know firsthand how much time you can save yourself – and your team – when everyone has a central place they know they can go for the exact steps to accomplish a particular task or project.
Same goes for every day tasks and projects in your business.
Once I decided I wanted to take on this project, the next thing I did was COMMIT to it.
This might sound super obvious, but when’s the last time you actually stopped and committed to yourself – out loud – that you were all-in on a project?
It can make a huge difference when it comes to holding yourself accountable.
Why do you want to do it?
Once I had decided on and committed to this project, my next step was to understand why I wanted to do it.
I know a project without a purpose behind it is going to be tough to create a plan for, and it’s also going to be tough to follow through on when the going gets tough. I need a WHY to come back.
When I asked myself WHY I wanted to do this project, here’s what I came up with…
1. I want to get a good handle on everything that’s going on in our business.
Now that we have a solid team of 4 virtual team members, plus myself and John, I wanted to have a solid, overall picture of what everyone is working on.
This is important because I know once we have that overall picture it will give us the opportunity as a team to evaluate and decide:
What we don’t need to do anymore at all;
What we can make more efficient / better;
What’s working great so we can double down.
2. I want to have a central place where we can all go to understand any process or system in our business.
Because some of the tasks and projects we work on overlap – or for some of our bigger systems, we have multiple people managing different steps of the process – it’s important that we’re all on the same page and understand what other pieces of the puzzle are necessary.
Having a central place where everything is documented will help:
Cut out the guesswork;
Make sure everyone is on the same page;
Save everyone time;
Serve us when doing new on boarding / training.
What will it look like when it’s complete?
Once you’ve decided and committed to your project, and you have a good understanding of WHY you want to do it, it’s time to brainstorm how you want it to turn out.
In other words, what will it look like when it’s complete?
You not only want to have a good understanding of the major deliverables (because that’s going to help you identify the individual steps you need to take to get there), but you also want to know HOW it’s going to help you.
So when I took a step back and thought about what our systems and standard operating procedures will look like when complete, I came up with four major deliverables.
1. A list of everything we’re working on in our business
2. Confirmation that everything is running optimally
3. System in place for each task or project
4. A central location where everything lives
In coming up with my list of major deliverables I was able to see exactly how this project is going to help us once complete. Once we have all 4 of these things in place, the reasons why I wanted to do this project in the first place will be met.
What’s the very first step?
Only thing left to do is START your project, which you can go about doing in several different ways. But first thing is first: make sure you turn your project into a SMART goal.
Once you have your project in the form of a SMART goal, you might continue with putting together a detailed project plan, which is typically what I would recommend.
But in order to get started on this particular project, all I needed to figure out is the first step.
I knew if I got too deep into putting together an entire plan in the beginning that I might get bogged down with everything I don’t know at this point. So instead, I’m starting with what I do know: the very first step.
I know that once I take the first step, the others will start to reveal themselves. Plus, as I start to identify new steps, I can start putting my project plan together as I go.
It’s easy to get held back when first starting a big project: overwhelm and not knowing where to start happens to all of us. So it’s ok if you don’t know all the steps right now.
Focus on the first step and the others will reveal themselves.
Steps for creating Standard Operating Procedures
Here are the first steps I’ve taken in creating standard operating procedures for our business.
Step 1: Create a board in Asana
I created a board in Asana for the overall project: Standard Operating Procedures for Entrepreneurs On Fire.
Then, I created a column for each team member.
Next, I reached out to all our team members and explained the project and why it’s important.
Finally, I requested their help with the first step: sending me a list of their tasks in the form of: daily, weekly, bi-weekly, monthly and 1-time tasks.
Once I receive that information back from each of our team members, I’ll document what everyone sent me in their respective columns.
Step 2: Match tasks that already have a system
Next, I’m going to start matching up tasks and projects on each of our team members’ lists with the systems and processes that we already have in place. That way I can identify two types of tasks and projects everyone is working on:
Tasks and projects that already have a system
Tasks and projects that don’t have a system
Step 3: Study tasks I’m not already familiar with
In matching up the lists from our team members’ with the systems and processes that we already have in place I realized that most of the tasks and projects that don’t already have a system or process in place are ones that I’m not very familiar with.
So while I didn’t know this when I first started my project, the last couple of weeks have consisted of a lot of research: trying to figure out how different tasks and projects are managed and accomplished.
This has involved:
Figuring out who ‘owns’ the task or project
Asking the owner who else is involved
Requesting the steps from start to finish
Not only did I not anticipate this step of the project, but once I realized it was necessary I didn’t think it was going to take as long as it has.
I will admit I haven’t given this project my full focus, as we’ve had a lot of other projects come up in the business that have taken priority. However, I am getting a bit anxious to wrap up this step and move to the next.
Just to give you a quick count, I’m looking at a solid 30 or so tasks and projects that still need a system or process built around them, and about the same number (give or take) of tasks and projects that already have a system or process built around them.
Step 4: Organize the tasks and projects by priority
Next step, which I’m getting ready to dive into now, will be to organize the tasks and projects that don’t already have a system or process by priority. I’m essentially giving myself a guide to follow from here on out so that instead of looking at the 30 – 40 tasks and projects I know I need to create a system around, and then getting totally overwhelmed, I can look at a list of 5 at a time.
During this step I’m going to really be focusing on my goal date of April 1, 2018 to help me determine how many systems and processes I need to be creating each day or each week to hit my goal.
This is only the beginning of this project, and I hope you can see from this that starting big projects doesn’t have to be overwhelming or scary.
All you have to do is set aside the time to talk through it and brainstorm.
What are my goals for this project?
Why do I want to do it?
What do I hope is accomplished when it’s complete?
What’s the first step I have to take to get started?
If you’re looking for a step-by-step guide that can help you with setting and accomplishing a BIG goal like the one I’ve shared here, The Freedom Journal is that guide.
The Freedom Journal is your accountability partner with daily check-in’s, 10-day sprints, and quarterly reviews to make sure you’re on track to hitting your goal.