Are Your Office Procedures Optional?

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Do you ever get tired of reminding employees to do their jobs in accordance with the documented policies, procedures, and systems?  Do you feel like a kindergarten teacher trying to get your children to stay in line?  Have you experienced any of these challenges lately: missing deadlines, customer complaints, and recurring annoyances? How often? What is it costing you in time, productivity, and customer retention?

Well, few things in business are less glamorous than reviewing your office or operations policies and procedures. It’s way more fun to sell things and make money than it is to make and uphold the rules.  However, the successful growth of your company will depend on your staff’s ability to execute these policies and procedures consistently.

Let’s presume, for now, that we have the right people running the systems. (If not, that’s a different subject…) So the first question that always comes up is “Why won’t my staff follow the procedures?”  What I find most often is that the biggest challenge is a lack of awareness and/or clarity on the part of the Team. We know that, in the absence of rules, people make up their own. Some of the most common excuses are: “Nobody told me….” Or “I didn’t know…”


So let’s ask ourselves some questions.  Do we have policies and procedures? Are they written down? Does everyone have a copy? When was the last time they were revised? For example, if pagers were popular the last time you updated your company handbook, technology has changed enough to warrant re-visiting the rules of office conduct.  One of the jobs of leadership is to remind the Team of that which they already know. Team meetings, of the whole gang or by department, are a great opportunity to address, review, and remind.

The second challenge is a lack of understanding of how their use fits into the big picture.  Do your employees fully understand the true purpose of the office/operational procedures?  Is the purpose of the procedure to do it the right way every time?  Or is the purpose to ensure that the customer’s needs are met on-time, every time, in a consistent, repeatable, profitable manner?  There is a big difference in the motivation that the two approaches can bring out of your staff. 

This allows you to have the discussions about lack of adherence to procedures not as a punitive, “you are not following the rules” discussion, but as a more important “we aren’t meeting the customer’s needs consistently” discussion.  Your staff needs to understand and buy into the bigger purpose of your business in order for them to participate in the small daily actions and tasks that you have defined for them to perform. 

When creating systems and procedures for your team to follow, just remember that the creation of the procedures is the 8th step in a 9 step process to systemize your business.  If you have not complete steps 1 through 7, you are unlikely to have much success with step 8.  In future blog posts I will review the entire 9 step process on creating the systems to power your business to the next level.  What you can do right now is start reviewing what you have and what your gaps are, in preparation for implementing a complete program for systemizing your office and operations.

Author: Mark McNulty, Business Coach in Louisville, KY