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University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Organize, Optimize, Systematize...Go On Vacation

by Leslie Arriola

Every business needs an organizing infrastructure of well-defined, informative systems, that not only guide the ship, but enable it to stay afloat in stormy seas. Most importantly, good organization banks on having good systems in place right from the get-go.

Are you ready for the big times?

All too often, businesses flounder under the pressure of an unexpected event – a huge surge in demand for goods or services, a change in the marketplace, the loss of critical personnel – because the only systems they have in place are those that evolved over time to meet immediate needs, with no thought for what might come in the future.  A business that is habitually reactive can only scramble to cope, while one driven by a proactive mindset will have systems in place that not only help it weather storms, but make it possible  to sail more confidently in new directions and take advantage of exciting opportunities.

Of course, it’s not always possible to identify all the parameters of systems your company may need in the future. However, you can prepare for the unknown with a foundation of systems that address the following basics:

  • Measuring and ensuring the productivity of day-to-day operations
  • Documenting and providing checks and balances on processes and procedures
  • Planning and tracking projects and production
  • Accounting for and evaluating both the short and long term financial health of the company and its divisions
  • Timely and thorough updating of documents and designations to reflect legal changes such as a change in name, ownership, type of business or the succession plan 

Where’s that report?

The ability of a company to run smoothly also depends on the degree to which owners, managers and employees  are organized. On a day-to-day, functional level, how organized are your employees? How organized are you? Paper piles? Missed appointments? Memory overload? Where is that report? Does being individually organized really matter as long as the job (eventually) gets done?  You bet it does! But, where to begin?

Start by presenting employees with clear goals and specific objectives to work toward. Here are three critical “get organized” goals generic to most businesses, along with some tried and true organizing strategies:

  • Decrease the likelihood that errors, omissions and miscommunications will occur by instituting company-wide use of highly specific, traditional and tech-based forms, checklists, and calendar/reminder systems.
  • Ensure that the right people have all the information they need to take appropriate action and make timely decisions by setting up well-defined, traditional and tech-based messaging and reporting systems.
  • Increase the ease with which co-workers can share information and tasks, take up the slack when a colleague is out sick or on vacation, or teach new hires the ropes by creating logical andlabeled centers for files, tools, and supplies, with built-in tracking and maintenance systems and readily available documentation of all procedures and systems.

An important footnote -- Getting people to “get organized” is not a one-size-fits-all operation. Individual differences in work style, learning curves and openness to change need to be considered before asking workers to implement a new system.

Good organizational systems, whether on a company or individual level, make living on the edge a thing of the past. Good systems give you better control over your business, more time to focus on its current health, and the mind-space to plan for its future.  Best of all, with good systems in place, you can, at last, go on that vacation you’ve been talking about for so long.

Leslie Arriola, owner of Systems and Solutions for Chaos Control, specializes in helping businesses and individuals organize for success.   She can be reached at (413) 548-9865 or larriola@umassk12.net

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