How Building a Bike Reminded Me of The Importance of Scaling
Last week, my daughter turned 4 and I found myself, late at night, trying to build her new birthday bike. The task would have been made easier if the instructions were decent, but unfortunately, they were written poorly so I ended up just trying to figure it out myself. What should have been one hour project ended up consuming 3 hours of my time, as well as most of my patience and sanity (why would part A connect to part F – doesn’t it make sense for A to connect to B?!?)
As I struggled with the joining the “G-Connector Bracket” to the “U-Slide” but making sure that the “Circle Washer” was in the right place, I realized how this same struggle applies to the workplace. When someone is faced with doing something for the first time, we oftentimes do not set them up for success – instead, we let them either figure it out on their own or rely upon the dissemination of tribal knowledge (i.e. they ask one of their peers who gives them verbal guidance on how to do that particular task).
What struck me was how inefficient and ineffective this method is. It’s inefficient because so much time is wasted, either from the employee who wastes time trying to reinvent the wheel from scratch or from the knowledgeable employee that must train over and over again. And it’s ineffective, because there are the best practices within your organization, and it seems silly for someone to not use it.
So how do you solve for this? Process and documentation. First, you need to document some of your best practices, especially for situations that come up commonly. For example, have your Sales Team list out the 5 most common objections they get, and then prepare best practice responses for each of those. Or look at your most common Customer Support tickets and and make sure that you have macros (in Zendesk) or templates (other ticketing systems) created that can be easily used.
The next is process, and there are 3 parts to this. Firstly, make sure there is a good process to identify when a standard document should be created. Maybe it’s when the team tells you, or you see, a lot of similar situations occurring. Or maybe you put 1 person in charge of creating a new template each week.
The second is to make sure that everyone understands how to find the template. Don’t get caught up in trying to find the perfect technology (Google Docs, Sharepoint, macros or 3rd part apps like Guru) – ultimately the technology doesn’t matter. What does matter is that it is easy to use, and everyone knows how to use it.
The last is to make sure that people are actually using the templates, and if not, find out why not. Typically, you’ll hear the response that either they didn’t know a template existed, or they didn’t know how to find it, or it was just easier to write up the response themselves rather than search for the template. Those are all problems that can be solved. For example, incorporate a template review in your weekly stand-ups to reinforce awareness of the templates and make it part of the team’s workflow.
With the right documentation and process in place, you’ll find the team performing better, more consistently and more efficiently. And when that occurs, congrats because you have started on the journey of scaling.
We have 20+ years of experiencing in helping companies scale . If you would like to discuss how we can help you achieve cost-efficient and effective growth, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Azim Nagree is an ex-Bain consultant with 20+ years in leading strategy, growth and operations transformations.