How much of the core of your business is in the administration? Probably a lot. As companies grow, admin roles seem to grow with them. In many businesses, administrators are the glue holding things together.
The word ‘administration’ can hide an enormous amount of work. In small businesses, especially in trades, the administrators do far more than simply handle mail and phone calls. They also keep your books, make sure your team gets paid, make sure you get paid, handle complaints, and know the whys and wherefores of nearly everything that happens.
‘Administration’ is also the first thing people want to eliminate, because it is sometimes a synonym for inefficiency and paper-shuffling. But what that does is help us forget that people are attached to it. Those people, in any organisation, can sometimes be the most resistant to change.
To learn why, and to find out how to adapt the work into a new system, we need to go to the realm of change management. In particular, we need to look at the idea of ritual.
When you think about it, the administration in your business is just a set of rituals that has been developed. The ritual is known as ‘the way we do it around here’. Your business is like a mini-society. It has its own culture, its ways of doing things, and even its own beliefs. Its rituals are part of that culture, and they unify your society.
Administration is like ritual
Rituals are the things in your organisation that create order and community. Rituals exist for a reason, and they are often based on the past. Workplace rituals give people ‘shared, structured behaviours’, and they are an important part of your culture.
Let’s look at what this means.
When your technician completes a job, he completes Form A and passes it to an administrator. The administrator then engages in ‘processing’ that form. The purpose of this structured behaviour, and the role of the form is to track time and materials. Your administrator knows this because of what comes after the processing, and your technician knows it because it’s just ‘the way it is’.
When you decide to put in place a workflow management system, your administration isn’t just changing over to a paperless method. It’s adapting to a new role — one that is less about task-driven sequencing and more about process management.
Involve administration in new process design
Through the process of change management, your administrators can be your best friends. They are often the people in your team who are best at what we’ll call ‘consequence thinking’.
To take our earlier example with Form A, the administrator knows that if the technician doesn’t complete Form A, then it makes the month’s Profit & Loss reporting more difficult. But your technicians don’t see that difficulty. They just see the time and effort of completing and finalising the form.
If you were to design the process based on timing and submission, you would miss the critical reason why you have the form: So that the data can be used for Profit & Loss reporting.
Asking your administrators to be involved in adapting processes enables you to take advantage of the reason behind the process. Remember, rituals are based on the past; so your new rituals also need to be meaningfully linked to that story.
Moving over to new systems is a process that is often faced with dread. Changing your approach to include some of the ways outlined in this article — both from the idea of ‘ritual’ to how processes are rebuilt and redesigned — can do the opposite. Instead of dragging your team through a systems change, you can design the change so that everyone’s involvement reinforces and adds to the story of your business.
To learn more about how you can create lightweight, fast administration systems for your business, give our expert team a call on 1300 78 46 60.