Doesn’t it, therefore, make sense to try and mimic the workings of a timepiece to simplify, automate and integrate the multitude of processes within the business?
“The wheels of the watch are all admirably adjusted to the end for which it was made, the pointing of the hour. All their various motions conspire in the nicest manner to produce this effect. If they were endowed with a desire and intention to produce it, they could not do it better.”
Adam Smith (1723-1790) The Theory of Moral Sentiments
Let’s define a mini-system as that referring to any recurring activity or process within a business which has a specific entry and exit point. For instance, a mini-system could refer to:
- How staff answer the telephone
- How employee inductions are managed
- Procedures for grievances and dismissals
- How visitors are treated
- How management accounts are prepared for the weekly management meeting
- How stationery is ordered
- How the petty cash system works
- How information from the production department is received and processed
- Credit control procedures
There are, in fact, hundreds of potential mini-systems within any business. They are yours to seek out and create. They can range from minor detail stuff to heavyweight decision-making processes. Whatever category they fall into, they will have some common traits:
- have a specific entry and exit point
- achieve something useful
- be a self-contained unit
- link to other mini-systems
- be measurable
- be recurring
We now understand what a mini-system is and how it can help the Intrapreneur in the business. So let’s establish our blueprint for building mini-systems and start the journey to work smarter not harder.
The Work Smarter Not Harder Blueprint
- Identify a mini-system opportunity. In a small business start-up, you will use your experience to create the first handful of mini-systems proactively. As time moves on, you will also have to be reactive and set up mini-systems in response to a specific need or crisis as it arises.
- Create the mini-system. One may look quite different from another. As long as they exhibit the common traits mentioned above, you will have an effective mini-system ready to take its place in the business clockwork.
- Manage the mini-system. In the early days you, the Intrapreneur, may need to manage it yourself but your aim is to put someone else in place, suitably trained, to take responsibility.
- Manage the people who manage the mini-system. You are now on the road to scalability. You can now repeat steps 1 to 4 without taking your eye off that horizon.
Can you see what’s happening? As the business grows, the Intrapreneur may end up managing the people who manage the people who manage the mini-systems. Like astronauts being catapulted into space looking back on earth, the perspective changes as every mile passes. As our planet gets smaller, other planets come into vision. The view evolves continuously. You can then ensure that you work smarter not harder.
- Interrogate the people and the mini-systems. Because you have introduced the notion of scalability, you can now step back to get the astronauts’ view of what is going on. The picture is different. Look for continuous improvements.
- Keep going. Return to step 1 and do it all over again.
Incidentally, have you noticed that this process is our first mini-system itself?
We’ve left a lot of questions unanswered of course. How do we measure and evaluate these mini-systems? How do we introduce each one to the workplace? How do we communicate what is going on so that people feel at ease and empowered? How do we train employees to manage the mini-systems effectively?
And perhaps most importantly of all, how do we link together our mini-systems to create our well-oiled clockwork business administration?
We have, at least, laid the foundations for effective intrapreneurship by introducing scalability and helping to limit growing pains. As an Intrapreneur – the Entrepreneur inside the business – we have started to work smarter not harder.
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Thank you to Eduardo Zamacois y Zabala, for ‘Regreso al convento’, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons