Fundamentals to Keep Business Running Smoothly

By Kristen McAlister Jul 9, 2015
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If you’ve ever felt alone and frustrated with the way your organization is operating, you’re not alone. Many managers feel they need to follow up on things they usually shouldn’t, otherwise they may not get done, or get done properly. See if you share at least three, if not all, of these common issues that keep businesses keep running smoothly:

  1. Communication challenges
  2. Best practices are not documented
  3. Only one person knows how to do each job
  4. You’re unsure if you have the right people in the right positions
  5. You have a few people who are hard workers but don’t seem to be stepping up the way you expect

It’s easy to feel distracted or buried by these concerns. In the back of your mind you keep thinking:

  • Everyone is over loaded, but they wouldn’t be if we were more efficient.
  • Why do I need to get involved in so many day-to-day tasks?
  • Why doesn’t everything get done on time?

There is no easy quick fix, but a couple of fundamentals can make a world of difference to you and your employees.

Team Roles and Responsibilities

Undefined team roles and responsibilities are the largest contributing factors to problems in the workplace, according to employee interviews and project post-mortem recaps. Each employee should be clear about his or her responsibilities, who they are accountable to, what their role is in the company, how their strengths contribute to that role and a plan for any additional training. Give them ownership of their list. They are responsible for it. It’s amazing to see what happens when you give someone the gift of ownership.

And don’t assume they already know what’s expected of them. I sat in on a conversation recently where the owner of a manufacturing company realized that she’d been referring to someone as her “office manager,” although she’d never actually offered the employee this position, nor had she let her know what the job involved.

Once you’ve documented and reviewed with each employee their roles and responsibilities, the last thing you want is for that document to get buried on a server somewhere. The more the document is referred to, acted on and brought into discussions, the more employees will value it.

For example, you may want to start an employee acknowledgement program. You task someone with the initiative, they do a great job, then get promoted or leave the company. Now what? If a transition plan was added to the roles and responsibilities at the start of the initiative, then the transition is that much easier.

Roles and responsibilities can be used when discussing additional support or training needs, accomplishments, re-assignment or transitioning of responsibilities.

In addition to the individual lists you give employees, keep a master list in one document for easy reference. Yes, that means maintaining information in two places, which I normally discourage, but in this case, it’s justified.

Cross Training

Knowledge of key job roles should not reside with one employee. Identify the areas of your company that should have at least two people knowing how to do a job, such as in manufacturing, accounting, or customer service. The person responsible for a job should write a basic “how to” outline. An employee being trained for the same job uses this document, makes notes and adds to it. Now you have both a back-up training manual and a documented standard operating procedure.

These initial efforts can be hard. They require time and brain power. But once you get these first tasks out of the way, employees tend to grow so comfortable with the process that it becomes second nature. 


Kristen McAlister is president of Cerius Executives, which matches leaders with companies.

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