What is an operating system?
An operating system is a structured approach to running your business that covers all the basics: meetings frequency and management, strategy shaping and communication, goal setting, metrics reporting, etc. It's like a playbook for your business that keeps everyone on the same page.
How do you choose an operating system?
The most popular operating systems are EOS (from Gino Wickman's book Traction) and Scaling Up (from Verne Harnish's book of the same name). I read both books about five years into my business's journey, right at the point where the growth of my team necessitated a more consistent approach.
Both operating systems deliver good, sensible approaches to running a business. The key is choosing which one resonates more with you and your business. My company chose EOS because it was simpler to communicate and deliver, but it was splitting hairs: Both EOS and Scaling Up are excellent systems.
There are six key elements of every business, which are the glue that keeps it all together: vision, data, people, process, issues, and traction. While the first five are key components that each have their own set of best practices and principles, traction is what brings discipline and creates excellence in execution of the business goals.
Why do you need an operating system?
1. It makes it easy to communicate best practices.
Before my company had a named system, each time a new member of the team joined, leadership had to not only re-explain the best practices but also remember them. Now, they can refer to the book and the presentations that leadership created internally that explain how to use EOS. It takes the question marks away.
2. It allows the CEO to focus on the vision and leadership of the business.
Having the solid backing of a proven system gives you the confidence to step away from the general administration and logistics of running a business. It gives you the time and energy to empower your team and allows you to step away.
3. It's comprehensive.
Having an established business operating system allows you to consider all elements of the business. Many companies operate like a chair on three legs: They are strong in some areas and weak in others. They may be clear on the vision with a total vacuum on data and reporting, or strong in the process but weak on people. Having a comprehensive approach makes sure you're on steady ground.
4. It gives you a way to test for business health continually.
My company polls the team quarterly to gauge progress against all the essential elements. Recently, the results came back showing that not everyone was clear on my business's 10-year goal. So, today, I'm working on creating that clarity. A few years ago, before establishing an operating system, something that fundamental yet hard to discover could have been easily missed.
Take advice from someone who has done it
If you want your business to be successful, my advice is this: Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. You will never find a system that is perfect for your business, so choose the base that is the closest match, and then adapt it from there.