Many business owners and entrepreneurs we work with are overwhelmed by the complexity and sheer number of issues they have to firefight every day. And while this chaos feels as a given when you’re in the situation, it is often just a sign that your organization is disorganized.
This blog post will guide you through five simple steps to bring order back to your business.
What is a Disorganized Organization?
An organization is any group of people that join forces and collaborate to reach a joint goal. So basically, your team only becomes an organization by collaborating and a common understanding of what the goal is.
Disorganization is defined as a lack of proper planning and control. And this describes exactly what many of our clients feel: They feel they have no real control over their business. They experience that instead of planning, they’re being solely reactive.
And if they manage to plan, these plans are being made redundant by changing business environments or the disorder itself.
Signs of your organization being in disorder include:
- Poor time management, people miss deadlines or reach them last minute
- Decrease in productivity
- Staff members are being stressed out
- You and your team have to constantly firefight
- The quality of results you produce is highly variable
- Achievements are heavily dependent on individual performance and work styles, there’s no systematic approach to great results
- Everybody needs to put in long hours to make things work
- Your wouldn’t dare to spend a lot of money on advertising because you are scared your organization can’t handle the additional business
- Colleagues lack clarity about their responsibilities, the way tasks are expected to be done and about the strategy of the company.
- It is difficult to hire the right people or to identify your hiring demands altogether
If this sounds like your company, this article is for you.
While there is not one easy quick fix for your disorganized company, there is a simple sequence of steps you can take to regain control.
Step 1: Define Your Processes
The first step is to find out how you actually do the work and to then write it down. This may sound like useless exercise, but we see over and over again how much this increases clarity and reduces frustration.
Often times, teams are reluctant to becoming more process driven out of a fear to lose freedom to do the work in they way they want to. The key is to involve the team throughout the process. Once clear processes are in place, usually it produces a big relief and the teams accept the documentation as a valuable resource.
Here’s a quick summary on how to identify or define and document processes.
- Build a process inventory. A tool we often use for this is a value chain, as it guides your thinking along the value generating processes. Collect the sub-processes under each headline. Next, for each sub-process:
- Interview the subject matter experts
- Write down a draft sequence of steps in a tool that your team likes to use (Google Docs, Notion, Trainual) and that makes sense for the situation you’re in
- Discuss the draft with the team
- Identify and eliminate bottlenecks in the process, e.g. approvals of one very busy person.
- Once done, put the process in final writing
- Get a sing-off of the team
- Assign responsibility to someone in the team to regularly update the process description.
For more details on how to define process and write standard operating procedures, check out our blog post on the topic. This is the first step and leads into the second step: Your Org-Structure.
Step 2: Define the Roles and Org-Structure in Your Company
Once you know how you execute on your tasks, you need to know who needs to accomplish what. A lack of organization is often times a lack of clarity about the own role. The benefit of writing down job descriptions is manifold:
- Not only have you defined how a process is executed, but also you will create a list of tasks per person.
- Each person has clarity over what their responsibilities are
- You can design reporting lines and an org structure that makes sense for your strategy
- You have a clear idea what profile to look for when hiring
Set your role descriptions up to include at least the following.
This is a high level description of why that job exists and what its role is in the company. Keep things high-level and explain why the role is important and its contribution to the success of the company.
Map out what the job holder is responsible for. Phrase responsibilities as outcomes or deliverables. The list of responsibilities will be fairly stable over time, while the list of tasks (below) might change a bit quicker.
Lastly, add a list of tasks that are necessary to be performed in order to fulfill the responsibilities. Find a balance between detail and high-level. Ideally, the whole job description is not longer than max. 2 pages, better 1.5 pages.
Potential other things to add are hours related to the role to manage the workload (part-time or full-time), who this role is reporting to and who reports to this role.
Once you have all job descriptions, set up your org-structure.
An org-structure serves a variety of purposes:
- It gives employees clarity over who’s their supervisor
- It defines who gets how much power, resources and attention in the organization
- It is a design tool to support your business strategy
If you want to learn more about the different org structures that make sense for you business, check our our blog post about the topic.
Step 3: Use Templates
Pretty much all of our clients have some form or recurring work products they produce. For all of these work products, whether final or not, you can build templates that will ensure the outcome looks the same every time.
SUPPORT ORGANIZATION WITH SOFTWARE: BUILD YOUR COMPANY OS IN AIRTABLE.
Having the right materials in place to produce great work will decrease the fault rate (errors) and stabilize quality. Also, it will tremendously increase your teams productivity by reusing what worked in the past.
Lastly, it’s a great tool to guide people through a process naturally rather then making them actually read a process description.
For important tasks, proactively manage and update templates that you use. For less important tasks, let the updates happen organically: At each new use of the template, update it if necessary.
Examples for templates include:
- Reports, both internally or clients
- Email-Templates for communication
- Client files like strategy papers or concepts that you would otherwise set up new every time
- Spreadsheet for business case calculation or financial planning
- Project templates in project management tools like Asana
- Templates for meeting minutes or agendas
- Templates for job postings or performance reviews
- Proposal or billing templates
Any work result you produce on a regular basis, whether final or intermediary, whether internal or for clients, can become a template.
Step 4: Ensure Great Communication and Collaboration
Once everyone has all resources to know how work is supposed to be done (process descriptions and templates) and who is doing it (role descriptions), the next step is to foster collaboration and ensure great communication.
There are many things you can do to improve communication.
Make sure to schedule the right meetings in the right frequency. Meetings are the best platform to ensure smooth communication flow throughout the organization. Different meeting types to consider are:
- The Huddle
- The Team Meeting
- The 1:1 Meeting
- Functional Meetings
- Townhalls or All-Hands Meetings
- Strategy Meetings
Check our our blog post about the ideal meeting landscape for a growing company here.
Your goal has to be to create a culture where open communication is not only accepted, but expected. You don’t want to be the boss that employees feel they can’t talk to. This would be a recipe for disorganization.
Instead, ask for opinions and especially for critical feedback to make sure issue are being brought to you attention before they become problems. Show compassion for personal situation and bring a personal feeling to communication inside of your workspace.
Especially remote-first organization tend to rely heavily on asynchronous communication like chat or email. While this might be suitable for routine, non-ambiguous communication, it doesn’t work for more complex communication needs. Ensure that there’s enough face-time in your team’s communication.
As important as communication, collaboration is a critical ingredient for an organized company. Use modern, cloud-based collaboration tools to create transparency about project timelines and to-do-lists across teams and functions.
Use options to set up reminders and notifications to keep track of your tasks. Using a single source of truth in form of a shared collaboration tool will eliminate confusion over progress or next steps.
Step 5: Implement Management Systems and Continuous Improvement
Small business owners often struggle to fulfill their executive function. Next to the amount of time that’s necessary, the greatest impediment is the lack of systematic approaches to management. A few things that can help here:
- Implement a strategy that will give you and your team guidance and clarity of directions
- Break tasks down into actionable steps and results that you can track (roadmaps, OKR)
- Implement a KPI system to track and measure the critical metrics of your business
- Develop decision making frameworks
- Setup regular reports your team needs to deliver (see templates at the top)
Next to a management system, the thing that will help you keep your organization in order in the long run is a continuous improvement process.
To implement one, create a place where your team can collect inefficiencies they come across. this could be a spreadsheet or Kanban board.
Next, hold meetings on a regular basis to prioritize these inefficiencies and translate them into action items to fix them; assign them to team members.
Team members will take a closer look and find solutions for these problems. Keep track of the tasks in the next regular continuous improvement meeting (e.g. every other week).
Follow these five steps to bring order and peace back to your business. We know that just because the steps are simple, they’re not easy to implement. If you need help executing on one or more of them, reach out to us.
All the best.