The team at Pendant works constantly on building systems. We know the emphasis is strong enough when team members make jokes about how often we mention systems and their importance. In order to build effective systems, you need a system. There are a few key principles we use to make it happen.
What to systemize, and how?
The first rule we use is to systemize the routine, meaning things that we do frequently. Building systems takes time, and for routine items it makes sense. (Note – routine does NOT mean unimportant) For example, we receive materials for building control panels every day. So we have a system for receiving those items and making sure we know what we have.
It could be a programming block for a conveyor handling 3:1 merge. It could be CAD drawing blocks, or the agenda for what we call the 3PB, the Pendant pre-project briefing meeting, or the 3PD, the Pendant post-project debriefing. Maybe it’s as simple as which Keurig is used for coffee and which for tea. All of them become easier when we create a system.
The tools for creating the system depend on what we need. For purchasing, we use a web-based software application designed to systemize how we buy. For meetings, we use a written agenda and someone to hold us to it. Sometimes it is as simple as using a checklist (see this post for more on that: Checklist blog post ). The point is to use the tool that makes the job simpler.
What about the non-routine?
Every day we encounter situations that are new, or that occur infrequently enough that investing the time to build a system is not worth it. In those cases, we expect our people to use good judgment. This is known as “humanizing the exception”. But the way we handle even non-routine items is based on systems we built for other things. For example, spending the time to create a shared vision and company values is part of developing management systems. If team members clearly understand Pendant’s vision and values, i.e. the Pendant Way, they make solid decisions in non-routine situations.
There isn’t any part of the business where we don’t have systems in place. There will never come a time when we don’t emphasize creating systems. The systems we have in place today, at the size we are today, won’t necessarily be effective in 5 or 10 years when the company will be bigger and have more team members. They might not even be effective a year from now.
And so we’ll continue to stress it, and we’ll continue to make jokes about how much we stress it. Hopefully, some of them will even be funny.