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You’re Always Changing and So Should Your Systems
A big focus for our team this month is going through our processes and systems to make sure they’re working for us rather than against us. Much to my team’s chagrin sometimes, I’m always monitoring and tweaking things, but I’ve elevated it to a quarterly objective. Why the project elevation? I’m glad you asked. Yesterday marked a year since Scott Dinsmore and his passing catalyzed a lot of changes in Team PF. We were already at capacity when Scott passed and it was flat-out impossible for me to be an operational linchpin in PF and lead the transition at LiveYourLegend. We also implemented a few good enough systems and processes, namely Slack and our use of Hackpad, so that I’d be able to drop off tasks and outline projects quickly. We’ve also integrated six teammates since last August.
The consequence of building things on the fly is that our processes and systems were being held together with a lot of duct tape and wire. Though our last two launches have had great outcomes, the process of getting to those outcomes pushed our limits. Growing via Dunkirk Spirit is unsustainable.
Another major piece in play is that I’ve been successively firing myself from day-to-day management of the business since March so I can focus on more high-value activities like the book and product development. The systems we put in place last year were designed to enhance my ability to keep projects going across two businesses, but I was still very much in both businesses; we’re now overhauling TeamPF’s systems to facilitate my being less involved in the business. (Chelsea and Steve have been running the day-to-day ops of LiveYourLegend like champs for a couple of quarters now, so I’m not needed there, either.)
This is all very general, I know, but it amounts to doing things like:
Restructuring our team’s knowledge base (in Confluence) so that it make sense to the team rather than to me. We’ve been using Confluence since 2012 and it contains a lot of reference documents, training, context, and research, but finding it all hasn’t been easy. #Fixed
Using Asana rather than Hackpad. Hackpad’s great for fast outlining, but not so great for task and project coordination for projects that last longer than three days. I’ve built a few other microsystems using Zapier so that I can drop stuff in Asana just as fast as I could in Hackpad, but the tasks live where they should be.
Reworking our workflows to be more streamlined and efficient. At some point, I might write about using lean thinking to optimize workflows in creative teams, but my being less involved in the business has given me more time to work on the business.
Creating core skills matrices that show who can do what in the business. A challenge with a growing team is keeping up with who knows how to do what. Launches reveal training and context holes, especially as one or two people bottleneck the whole process while five others are in a holding pattern until the bottleneck is cleared.
These aren’t the sexy aspects of business for most people, and honestly, they’re joywork for me. Their being my joywork also means that the team is asking me whether I’m working on them because I’m hearing the siren call of easier projects or whether they’re really the most important things to be working on right now. And therein lies the rub: these are Quadrant II (not-urgent but important) projects that always get put off because something else is more urgent. Until, of course, you’re in the middle of a launch or vacation or up against a deadline and you can’t focus on what you need to because you’re caught up in a bunch of other stuff. We’ve been there and done that and have plenty of those T-shirts in our closets, thank you very much.
A lot of people approach systems-building as if it’s a one-time thing, as if you build the system once and then it’s set forever. The truth of the matter is that since your systems support what you’re doing and you’re in flux, your systems will routinely need to be updated. (Tweet this.)
Sure, you may not have a major rework on deck like what we’re going through, but almost everyone I’ve talked with has mentioned that there’s something they’ve been meaning to get to (someday/maybe). There’s never an ideal time to get to this stuff, though. Systems-building makes more time for you, but as with everything else, you have to make time to make time.
What small changes could you make in an important process or system this week? How much time might changing your systems save you in the upcoming months?