Monday, 9 November 2009

How's your business heartbeat?

Does your business have a heartbeat? A rhythm that you work to? A monthly or weekly routine that punctuates other work?

I’m referring to regular work in your schedule that absolutely, definitely, no-question, must get done sort of stuff. Many businesses have set dates for status reports, month end accounts, marketing communications, or even expenses claims. I certainly remember during my younger days resenting such deadlines – they seemed bureaucratic and always came at the worst possible time. But over the years I started to understand the benefits of such schedules and to appreciate being able to plan my work.

The most obvious example of this is statutory reporting of results. The larger the business, the more onerous and important the process, but most organisations have some statutory responsibility to disclose their financials.

If you work in a small or micro business, it’s up to you to set business deadlines and to ensure they are adhered to. As a result, many people don’t bother, and important things either never get done or get done so infrequently as to damage performance.

So what are the advantages of setting a regular schedule for regular work?
  1. Things get done faster if they are done regularly. Any job is a lot easier if you have to do it weekly or monthly rather than quarterly or even less frequently.
  2. People know what to expect. Communicating with customers and prospects, for example, is best done to a regular schedule so they know start to expect your communication.
  3. It simplifies decision making and therefore increases the chances of the work being done. Decisions about what needs to be done are made well in advance so that everyone knows what is expected.
  4. You can plan. When you know what’s needed and when, you can plan your days and weeks accordingly. This also means that bigger blocks of work can get done over a period of time.
  5. You can measure compliance. This is not an advantage if the activity is pointless, but you shouldn’t be doing it if it’s pointless. So meeting the scheduled time for the work has benefit, as does measuring compliance until it becomes a habit.
The biggest disadvantage with regularly scheduled work is that people keep on doing it after it has ceased being useful. Whilst this does happen, I think it happens less than enforcing the schedule work that could benefit from a disciplined schedule.

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