Systematic Change

I had a conversation with my cousin, Michael, recently where he told me about how his company was changing systems to make things more “efficient” (read: cutting costs). We spoke about our respective work ethics and efficiencies. It brought up a chicken vs. egg question: Do people make the systems or do systems make the people?

Every company has a way of doing things to make sure things get done. But do the processes in place really make the difference? If I need artwork created, I fill out a form and our Graphics Department creates the piece. I send it to my client for approval, and they love it (because our Graphics Department is amazing, in case you wondered). That’s the basic process. We request an item, we receive the item, we get approval on the item. The systems make the people work efficiently.

What’s missing is that personal touch, or how the people make the systems. When I fill out the form, I know what type of information the Graphics Department needs to create a stellar piece. When I receive the artwork, I have an idea of what the client is going to say and what objections they may have, so I can circumvent that before they ever see the finished piece. When I send it to the client, I know which design points I need to hit to make sure they understand why the piece was created the way it was.

Think about the systems you have in place. Are they working efficiently? Are they effective? Are your customers happy? And, above all, are your employees happy? If you’ve answered “no” to any of these questions, it’s time to make some changes. Here are some ideas on how to get started:

  1. Interview your customers. Find out what they like and don’t like about how they receive your product or services.
  2. Interview your employees. Offer them a safe environment to suggest changes or improvements.
  3. Start small. You don’t have to do a complete overhaul to make changes. Sometimes, a small tweak can make the difference between good and great.
  4. Test and test again. Everything sounds great in theory, but reality can bring different results – ones that may be different from what you thought they’d be.
  5. Be flexible. If your theory was wrong, that’s okay. Be willing to change your mind to improve your business.

So, which comes first? Neither. Allow your people to work the systems so the systems work for the people.

Nadia Zerka is an account manager at Imagine Communications.

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