Founders or starters of new divisions in established companies are used to doing everything for their businesses--often moving too fast to document their processes. Especially in the early stages of growth, the focus is more on getting things done by any means necessary than worrying about the A-to-Z's of how it gets accomplished. As a result, developing formal processes and systems tends to take a back seat.
As a company scales, most leaders will find the need to expand their team and start thinking about how to train others to do the tasks they once did. Transitioning from tackling the day-to-day operations to settling into a more overarching leadership position requires careful planning to create a system of repeatable processes that others can successfully follow.
As leadership expert and author John C. Maxwell wrote, "legacy is created only when a person puts his organization into the position to do great things without him." Here are some steps you can take to help create your legacy.
Take inventory of your actions -- now
You do things every day to drive your business forward. Now is the time to really pay attention to them. Notice you take steps toward another successful outcome and consider every action as a best practice, no matter how minute or simple it may be.
Then, create a process for each of your actions. Don't assume that someone trying to replicate what you've done will share your intuition or that certain actions are "obvious."
Take the time to write down your processes on Post-its and put them up on the wall. You can always add, subtract or rearrange as needed, but a disciplined approach will give you tremendous insight into just how many small tasks are involved in the final output.
Taking inventory will also shed light on areas that could be made more efficient or possibly automated in some way. Ask yourself if there are any tools you could use to make the process even easier.
Remember, this isn't all for you. Test your own system and make adjustments in the name of clarity.
Get the team involved
Just as you would get input from customers about your products, gather valuable insights from your own people. Create feedback loops for ideas on ways to continually improve your processes. You don't have to take every one of them, but you may uncover new ways to make a process more efficient.
Don't wait until you have everything perfectly spelled out to involve your people. Build your processes as you go, and share them widely. Get the team working on your actions and start holding them accountable for sticking to them, while still being open to possible improvements --consider it a beta test.
Be careful not to overwhelm, however. Let this process of developing your process roll out slowly. Create a priority list and consider tackling one or two each quarter, depending on how in-depth they are. The systems you're implementing will form the very foundation of your business when you're no longer at the helm, so make sure they're rock solid.
Empower others to contribute to the system
While it's important to align your team around your method of doing things, it's also beneficial to open up the floor to others to build their own processes, especially early on. It's a great way to share ownership of ideas and reward those who have identified problems or innovative new solutions.
Avoid building process in silos as much as possible. Yes, you may move faster alone, but you go further and create a stronger foundation when you involve others. Let team members from all corners of the company contribute to a way of doing things that most directly affects them, acknowledging that there are some teams you may keep less of an eye on than others.
Be careful not to over-process
Successful companies maintain a growth mentality for as long as possible, one that prioritizes nimbleness and open-mindedness. Beware of analysis paralysis that may burden your organization and add friction that slows things down. Processes should be reserved for critical or material functions first. Make it simple: understand the needs, gather the data, then act.
As your business grows, process may be the very thing that ensures efficiency. Scale requires repeatable actions for consistency and continuity both in-house and with customers -- when everyone knows what to expect, relationships are more satisfying.
In the same vein, remember that if a process ain't broke, don't fix it. If in the course of your taking inventory on your actions you discover that everything is running as smoothly as possible already, let it be -- just remember to document the steps for new and future team members.
Building processes and a system allows founders to run a tighter ship now, while dramatically improving the odds that things will continue to run just as strong in the future. Commit to sharing and training processes so it becomes second nature to your teams, and you'll be well on your way to creating a lasting legacy.