Recently I’ve had a huge job thrown onto my lap. It’s something that a volunteer has been doing for the past few years and he just recently left the organization due to a promotion at work. Now, unfortunately, all eyes are on me as they want me to take over his job and run things. It’s a lot of work and I’m not excited at the prospect of adding this to my plate. Consider this….
Successful companies are run by replicable and profitable systems, not people. So are successful high school teams, college teams, youth clubs and sports leagues. And, when you drill down a bit more, so are the fundraisers, events and day-to-day tasks of these organizations. When people leave, success can continue. Of course, you have to have good people. And when you empower good people with clear goals and a system to go about achieving them, you find that success is defined by processes. For example, I oversee a golf outing for my wrestling club every year and it’s a ton of work for everyone involved. We start planning about 9 months out. We’ve run it for 6 years now and it gets better every year. And it gets easier to run every year. Not because I know what to do. But because I have a system. A documented system.
I know what I need to do 9 months out, 6 months out, 3 months, 2 months, 1 month, 2 weeks, 1 week, 1 day and the day of. Some of it I remember from previous years but trying to remember all of it is impossible. Not having documented systems increases your anxiety level because you don’t know what you’re missing an part of your attention is constantly taken up by trying to remember a mental checklist. You always have that feeling of “what am I forgetting?”. It’s what keeps you up at night, makes you cranky with your kids, and detracts from your focus when working on other important tasks.
This volunteer position that is being subtly shifted onto my plate is a case in point.
The person who left, let’s call him Jake, was really good at what he did. The success of the organization depended on Jake’s being at the helm. He was the founder. (What if the success of every McDonald’s depended on Ray Kroc’s being there? The 35,000 McDonald’s franchises worldwide wouldn’t stand a chance.) Now that Jake is gone, we are left with a bunch of folders and a couple boxes of paperwork. “It’s all there,” he said when he dropped them off.
Here’s what’s not there. A documented system telling us what he did, when he did it and how he did it.
I would trade all of the boxes and folders for a simple 3 page timeline of what actions were taken when and a general idea of how to go about them. If we had this document, not only would the organization that he founded out of passion continue to grow in his absence, Jake could have also saved himself time and energy by delegating systematized, documented tasks to others. And these “others” would have been more prepared to deal with his absence.
So, if you care about your team, then position it for long-term success by documenting the systems that are in your head. Maybe you don’t care what happens after your gone. Or maybe you feel like the new person will not care how you ran things. If that’s the case, then systematize and document for your own sake. You’ll better be able to delegate so that you can work on higher level tasks. Further, you’ll prepare and empower your staff or fellow volunteers so that you can finally take that 4 week vacation that you’ve been dreaming about for years. In your absence, your organization will not only be sustainable, it just might flourish.
Let’s not make this hard. Here is one simple system that you can put into place that will help you build your document of what, when and how.
Piece of paper
Manila folder… any color will do really
Write (or type) the 12 months of the year evenly spaced down the side
Put the paper in the folder and place it somewhere that you can reach it within
anytime that you’re at your desk (a file cabinet does not meet the criteria here)
Anytime that you kick yourself for forgetting to do something or say to yourself, “I have to remember to do that next time”, pull out your folder and write it down quickly- shorthand is fine.
Then, a few times per year, type this out (save it), print it and stick it in the manila folder. Throw away the old handwritten version and continue keeping your shorthand notes on the master copy. You will be surprised at how your timeline grows, how your life simplifies, how you sleep better at night and how you can focus better on other tasks. And you’ll be surprised at how simple this really is.