How can growing businesses get past the 5 and 10 employee barriers?

According to Dr Alan Rae, the number of companies in the UK that go from employing fewer than 10 to more than 10 in a year is only about 1600.

The reason, he explains, is that each new person hired adds another layer of relationships. By the time you’re up to about 12 or 13 staff, people issues gobble up all the owners’ time. The result is senior management don’t have the time to think about strategy.

A growing business that wants to grow will need to resolve this issue early on, probably when it hits the 4-6 employee mark. This is the really point when you need to start formalising and documenting your systems, processes and procedures.

You don’t want to lose the agility that’s made the business successful, so how can you keep agile and formalise the business?

One approach is to document your processes and procedures in a way that’s as agile and nimble as your business:

  • Use  professional business writers (such as Cherryleaf) who can capture critical (but missing) information and improve existing content. You can use them to  take your “brain dumps”, talk to others, look at what documents exist, and turn that into information that communicates your message clearly and simply.
  • Use software that makes it straightforward to both get to the information that staff need and keep it up to date. There’s software you can use that costs as little as $10/year.
  • Embed the information into the systems that staff use, so it’s always to hand.

With measures like these in place, you’re more likely to have a scalable business with fewer growing pains.

See also

Webinar  21 November 2012 –  Writing policies and procedures: The most common issues, and how to fix them

We will be hosting a free 60 minute webinar called “Writing policies and procedures: The most common issues, and how to fix them” on Wednesday 21st November.

Registration is now open - Register Here

Places are limited.

Case study presentation – Using Confluence for generating reports

Ellis Pratt of Cherryleaf and Malcolm Tullett of Risk and Safety Plus Ltd will be presenting a short case study on “Using Confluence for generating field reports” at the 19 April 2011 meeting of the London Atlassian User Group.

The meeting is being held at The National Archives in Kew, Richmond. It’s free to attend – see the event and booking details.

Communicating the right information in business

By guest blogger Malcolm Tullett

Health and safety is built around good practice. There are systems for getting things done and processes for carrying out the tasks required to make the organisation successful. The problems occur when the paperwork outweighs the operator’s willingness to read and digest it!

Standard practice in most organisations is that every time something new occurs policies must be developed and manuals need to be written in order to drive the process.

The senior management team have access to this weight of knowledge, but the front end workers either don’t want to (and don’t) read all that information or they’re forced to read it and don’t fully understand it. Worse still, they do their job in spite of, rather than because of, the bureaucracy that sits above them.

So the issue is how do you get people to do things right without expecting them to read manuals (which they probably won’t – and won’t remember) and still create a safe working environment? A folder of information may exist, but it doesn’t really help the operatives to know the specific gravity or flammability level of any substance they have to handle.

Rewriting the legislation as a ‘policy’ is unnecessary – regulations are about systems, not strategies.

First a strategy needs to be developed to form the base from which the systems and processes will be developed.

Then a system needs to be created and not by finding one that exists elsewhere and copying it. If you want a system to work you need to look at the current practices within the organisation in relation to specific regulations and identifying whether they are already compliant, need a bit of tweaking to meet the regulations or need to start from scratch.

For example: those people who handle hazardous substances need to know how to handle them safely and the consequences of not doing so. A card with the substance instructions for use is enough. It may be a list or a flow chart and may have specific warnings e.g. flammable, carcinogenic, irritant, but first and foremost should be simple, straightforward and practical.

Operatives don’t need the strategic documents, a simple basic process with critical information is all that is needed at the operational level.

The system should accommodate how your organisation operates – not be ‘one-size-fits-all’. Every process needs examination and existing processes may need tweaking to meet the regulations. However, there may be opportunities to ask ’do we need this material or could we use something better and safer?’

The operative needs both the simplicity of process and also to understand the impact of getting it wrong. This enables them to make intelligent decisions when things don’t go according to plan.

And the point of all this is that:

  • Senior management need to develop clear policies;
  • Supervisory levels need the practical information the underpins the systems and processes,
  • But the operatives simply need to know what exactly needs to be done, how and why.

Turning knowledge into wisdom

By guest blogger Malcolm Tullett

There are four steps to wisdom:

1. Acquiring data
2. Turning the data into information
3. Using the information to gain knowledge
4. Applying wisdom to the use of that knowledge.

The current health and safety legislation and guidance has an abundance of data – and some of it is presented as information, however, it’s confusing. There’s so much duplication as each new law repeats what’s gone before – with a few extra twists. It’s no wonder that organisations are confused, let alone the individual members of staff who have to apply them on a day-to-day basis.

Most employees only understand risk on a surface level – they’re told ‘do this’ and they do it (or, in some cases, don’t do it). Most of them don’t really think about it much, other than as a bit of a nuisance.

People are swamped with information, policy documents, safety regulations, warnings, manuals – who has the time to read it, let alone try to understand it or apply it intelligently?

When people are taught dynamic risk assessment all that changes. In order to assess a rapidly changing set of circumstances, they have to think! They have to understand what is happening and then make good quality decisions – in other words they are forced to apply wisdom before taking action.

If the skills of dynamic risk assessment were taught throughout your organisation from the top down, how much better would your operation function and how much more effective would you be?

Is your corporate knowledge at risk?

By guest blogger Malcolm Tullett

Every organisation contains knowledge, but how well does your business handle it? Is there a single place of truth where everything that is needed resides – or do you lose information when someone leaves, is away on holiday or sick, or moves up to a higher position?

More to the point – do you KNOW what you’re losing?

  • You train people and then they leave – you can’t stop that happening, but how do you retain what they’ve learned?
  • You promote someone and they move into a different role – how much do they actually hand over to their replacement? Is that factored into their move?
  • People are unexpectedly away from work – perhaps from an accident or off sick, or have to take time off to look after a family member. Does the person who has to cover know where to look to find out what they do – and how?
  • In multinational or multi-site organisations, someone gets transferred from one place to another – does their knowledge go with them and leave a gap?

Every organisation needs to have a strategy to handle its knowledge risks. Not only to record systems and processes, but to store information on a wide variety of functions. Ideally, that system also needs to have the flexibility to grow with the organisation, and handle change and improvement too.

There is a cliché ‘knowledge is power’; but that implies exclusivity of knowledge and in today’s world protecting your personal knowledge doesn’t help the organisation to function effectively – in fact, quite the reverse.

Today’s world is based on sharing openly for the benefit of your environment, whether that’s family, community or employer. Just look at the explosion of social media – all based on sharing information and knowledge.

How does your organisation stand up to the knowledge risks?

Please welcome guest blogger Malcolm Tullett

We welcome our latest guest blogger, Malcolm Tullett. He runs a fire, safety and environmental consultancy and training company called Risk and Safety Plus, and is the creator of PROPA.

Malcolm’s mission is to spread the word that risk and good business are not mutually exclusive – they are simply two sides of the same coin. He’ll be blogging about business processes and communicating change within an organisation.

Malcolm Tullett

PROPA is a concept that won an Institute of Engineering Technology (IET) award for innovation. It has now been developed into a online intelligent operations manual that drives efficiency and effectiveness whilst seamlessly addressing compliance. PROPA presents end-to-end process mapping that enables you to analyse risk areas before an event and has the capability to actively change a process to mitigate risk and deliver quality data for business operations. Contact us for more details.

Welcome Malcolm!