What are We Missing?!

This article is one in a series on the Steps to Improve Systems and Procedures.

Casey, the CEO of YummyTummy, was not a happy camper. She'd heard rumors that the new COO she'd hired, Jules, was talking about changing the company's systems.

To her mind, that meant he intended to spend a lot of money. Now, Casey understood that to make money sometimes you had to spend it. And she did want to bring some fresh ideas into the old, family-run business - that's why she'd hired Jules, after all.

Casey had recently taken over as CEO, having worked in her parents' company since college. They'd grown from $20M to $120M in sales, and she realized it was time to bring some 'best practices' into the home-grown company.

But talking new systems was talking big bucks. Casey asked Jules into her office so he could set the record straight.

Jules had an agenda of his own for the meeting with Casey. He'd been involved in the food industry in very large companies for 20 years, working his way up through the ranks until he'd become SVP of Operations at his last employer, one of the finest food packagers. When he saw the opportunity to become COO of a mid-market firm, he had jumped for it. Jules knew an awful lot about every aspect of operations, and he saw the challenge here to be one of translating what he knew to the team at this smaller, less regimented company.

The biggest hurdle would be the 'let's do what we've always done' mentality that he was afraid he was going to meet with in Casey's office. "They don't know what they're missing," Jules muttered to himself as he made his way to the meeting. He put a confident smile on his face as he went through the door.

Casey was also wearing a determined smile. The smile turned arch when Jules presented the top three major areas he wanted to address at YummyTummy:

1. Inventory

2. Shipping

3. Systems

"Systems," she repeated, focusing on the subject of her suspicion. "Would you like to expand on that?"

"Absolutely," Jules replied. "We want to evolve the company, not simply run it the way you've always done."

Casey narrowed her eyes. This was exactly why she'd brought him on board, but what did systems have to do with it?

Jules continued, “I think we should start with getting to understand where we are going, why we do what we do, and look for the holes in our process.”

This sounded reasonable so far, Casey had to admit. "You're talking about a 'Gap Analysis,' aren't you?"

“Absolutely! Have you ever had one done?” Maybe they could get this company revving, after all, thought Jules.

“No”, replied Casey, “but it could be a good idea, I suppose. If we know what we're missing, then we can make the changes necessary to evolve."

She started to become excited as she forgot her fear over the new systems Jules probably wanted. "Look, my goal for the next five years is to double in size."

Jules’ smile broadened. Casey was speaking plainly, and he would too. "That's an admirable - and achievable - goal. But you will need the right systems and procedures in place to make it happen."

Casey's bright smile abruptly dimmed. Those darn 'systems' again. But...maybe he had a point. She decided to hear him out.

Jules stood up to write on the whiteboard. He listed the big issues and choices he saw ahead for the company to start down the path toward Casey’s goal.

Jules focused on the topic of Systems since he sensed Casey's wariness about the topic. He said as he wrote, “These are the four big issues that I see, and we can talk about some of the choices.

  1. Systems – Our current system cannot give us daily, and thus timely, reports on our actual production, delivery, sales, and receivables. We need to know this daily, not monthly and we can’t wait weeks after a period end to get reports.

  2. Training – Our people have their ways of getting things done, and once we bring in new systems, those old ways may become blocks. We need to engage everyone in the systems review.

  3. Accountability – If we have active and accurate information, we can hold sales to sales quotas, production to higher standards, and collections to be more rapid. We can make accountability a word that spells profits and bonuses.

  4. Gap Analysis – We can start with a formalized ‘Gap Analysis’ which will give us insights on WHAT is done, HOW it is done, and WHY it is done. We can map that to a vision of our future and determine WHERE we need to add resources and WHO needs to be better informed on where we are going with the company.

Casey was flabbergasted. On one board, Jules had completely changed her mind about the value of new systems.

  • It was true that she did not get timely reports on essential data, information she needed to make decisions.

  • It was true that the lack of easy information about sales and production made it difficult to hold her people accountable.

  • And it was also true that such lack of accountability had an impact on her bottom line.

She began to feel excited about a Gap Analysis, what it might reveal, and new systems that could be implemented which would make the company evolve, as Jules had put it.