The positions in most SMEs have evolved into their present form rather than having been created with specific objectives and duties. This means that the roles of team members often overlap or don’t incorporate everything the person could be doing. A thorough review of each position will clarify these vital details and put your business in a position to run more efficiently. The review should be done in conjunction with the person in the position so that both of you gain a clearer understanding of the role and its responsibilities.
Tasks of the position
Begin by making a simple list of all tasks each employee does – ‘answer telephones’, ‘purchase stationery’, ‘collect mail’ and so on. For each task list the outcomes that the work is to accomplish. Be as comprehensive as possible and ask why each task contributes to the functioning of the business. ‘Answering telephones’ makes a contribution to sales, to accounts, to public relations and frees up managers to spend their time more effectively. Then create a brief outline about how each task is performed:
· Is it performed manually or with the use of equipment?
· Is it performed independently or with the assistance of someone else in the office?
· Is it required to be performed at specific times of the day?
· How much time does it take each time the task is performed?
· What skills are required for completing the task?
Priority of each task
Assign each task a level of importance according to its contribution to the business. Use only three classifications:
· Essential – the business will not survive unless this task is done
· Valuable – contributes to the functioning of the business but not essential to its survival
· Nonessential – if the task was not performed it would have no effect on the business
This requires some sensitivity to people’s feelings as everyone thinks that what they do is important. Duties such as picking up the owner’s dry cleaning or collecting money for a weekly lottery entry may be part of somebody’s responsibilities but contribute nothing to the business.
Document the essential tasks
Prepare a ‘how to’ step-by-step manual for performing each essential task in the business. As you do this, go through every step and ask whether this is the best way to do it or if there is a way to improve it. If the person now performing a task leaves the business it will be much simpler to bring a new person up to speed because you’ll have a written procedure they can follow.
Examine the valuable tasks
Tasks that are considered valuable deserve closer examination. Each should be analysed to answer the following questions:
1. Should this function be performed by someone else in the business?
2. Are the outcomes of this task the same as another task that’s being performed?
3. Is the task being performed at the optimum time of the day?
4. Is the equipment being used appropriate for the task?
5. If the task is performed with others, are you using the best combination of team members?
6. Is too much time being spent on the task?
There are a number of tasks that are valuable to a business but could be handled in a way that adds more value. If the person doing the task is struggling then consider training them up or reassigning the task; or perhaps they’re being performed inefficiently because the wrong equipment is being used; or maybe they are just being done in a way that consumes too much time.
Eliminate the nonessential tasks
The final step in your review is to eliminate any nonessential tasks. This will free up team members’ time for better performance of their other duties and for new tasks that may have been put aside because there wasn’t time for them.