Ever been to a McDonald's? A FedEx store?
What about Anytime Fitness, Dunkin' Donuts, or Starbucks?
What is it that makes these businesses so successful?
It's their operating systems. The documentation that tells people how to do something in a particular way to yield a predictable result.
A successful operating system is what allows a company to deliver the same customer experience in two separate locations, half a world apart at completely different times.
A collection of processes, procedures, structure, principles and best practices. It's not enough to tell and show someone how to do a job. You also need to provide guidance for how to solve problems and take risks.
But be careful, an operating system is only as good as the culture built around following it.
Because people are the ones carrying out the duties laid out in a operating system - at least for now - the system is dependent on them, not the other way around.
The goal of your operating process is to create alignment and order while inspiring innovation, risk and ideas at the same time.
People are always going to do their best work when surrounding by other high performing, independent and motivated team members who are all trying to solve the same problems with a clear mission.
1. Build a strong foundation
An operating system doesn't work if managers take advantage of their superiority or if team members rely to heavily on others.
Both managers and practitioners need to embrace and work by the operating system. An operating system with a strong foundation paves the way for a bottom up, agile and lightweight system that moves faster.
Finding a balance between heavy documentation consisting of things like a rule book, guidelines, standards, training and everything else - these books are usually put away never to be referenced again - and fluid brand standards allows you to break away from a rule driven and slow moving culture that kills autonomy.
A key factor in being able to pull this off is transparency. Without transparency it's difficult to remove office politics that foster greed and selfishness.
2. Communicate the mission
Everyone in the entire company, whether it's 2 people or 200, should know exactly what the business is working towards and what is required to get there.
Start from the bottom up and align every person with the overall vision.
You want everyone to know:
- The company's mission and annual strategy
- The customer you are solving for
- The problems you solve and how you solve them
- The big focus areas for the year
- Monthly targets
All the above work together to drive collaboration, share responsibility, increase communication across teams and promote accountability.
3. Establish tight alignment
You want to use a centralized system where all members of all teams can see exactly what is being worked on by who - another area where transparency is key.
This way people on your team or on another team can get involved with something you might be having trouble with or that they have additional expertise in.
4. Provide flexibility through autonomy
Holding your teammates accountable without needed a boss to step in is a powerful milestone.
Everyone needs to also feel comfortable and compelled to hold each other accountable along the way, and once they do you will see a big jump in productivity.
People don't want to let their teammates down. It tends to be more emotional than letting a boss down.
Accountability comes from each individual committing to their goals before the beginning of the month. Now it's easier to see who is directly responsible for a specific goal.
Lastly, for accountability to fully take shape people also need a framework for making decisions.
Push the power down to whoever is on the front lines and give them the tools to make the right decisions.
5. Track progress transparently
Because setting goals and tracking metrics/analytics along the way is so critical to success it needs to be done in a consistent manner across the entire company.
Leaving data in silos versus centralizing it will create major headaches in the future if it hasn't already.
The amount of data you have access to is only going to grow making it harder to find any valuable/actionable insights.
The frame work for how you set goals should always start with the big vision.
Break the company's vision down into annual targets that are a little easier to swallow.
From here you can break them down into monthly goals that you will use as a guide when entering each month.
Then, each month, make sure to align all your priorities to your goals. Any activity that doesn't have the greatest impact on your monthly goals should be backlogged until a later time.
Bonus: Give yourself a stretch goal - that you're likely to fail at
At the beginning of each month, when planning out your major activities, you know what targets you need to align to.
By doing so you ensure that all your activities are tied to data. Everyone can see that data and can see how you arrived at your planned activities.
Giving yourself a stretch goal along side of your monthly target can help motivate you to put in a little extra effort for a big return.
Your operating system is a process put in place to support you vision and mission. It is not a set of documents that are handed out only to end up on a shelve somewhere.
They should be used on a daily basis. Each person is going to have a slightly different reason for using and referencing the operating system so it is up to you to make it valuable for each person.
A good operating system will allow your ideal business and or team to shine. Evolve your documents overtime, transform them to stay aligned with technology shifts and your overall progress.
Put the right guidelines in place so your business acts like it needs to to hit your targets.