If you talk to anyone at the Academy, you will likely know that we live by our systems and procedure checklists. We’ve taken that obsession and shared useful procedures with our Member firms through our coaching and training calls. In recent years, we’ve taken our procedure lists to a whole new level by incorporating programs such as Actionstep, Basecamp and Zoho to organize our ongoing tasks, projects and workflows. These programs have been game changers for us!
For our internal procedures, we take our checklists seriously. We have transformed them into templates with recurring assignments and deadlines. One extreme example of this is our preparation list for Academy events. It has over 450 line items listed out by deadline to ensure no detail is overlooked. And that does not include our “day of” checklists for each day and session!
Luckily for our Member firms, we have taken the guess work and the leg work out of creating their own workflows. We have built-out marketing, new client and existing client workflow steps in our CounselPro™ 8 database program so nothing will be missed by a team member. They cannot move forward without checking off that the preceding step was completed.
But why go to the trouble of setting up procedure lists when what you’re doing seems to be working just fine? Well, one benefit is the consistency of the tasks related to each procedure. Team members are able to replicate the process the same way every time. If the person who handled that task managed those steps only by memory, then if they leave, that knowledge would leave with them.
Sure it takes a lot of time to list out each and every task with the related steps (we know what that investment of time looks like!), but… once you do, you’ll be glad you did. It will provide you a great back-up plan, as well as training tool for future team members.
Using a procedure list will also save a lot of time tracking down answers or locating ancillary items. You’ll also eliminate the need to rely on someone else’s memory. When steps are passed on from memory, little details can get lost. Much like the telephone game. So once you document a task, you will know there are exactly 15 steps that need to happen every single time and where to find your materials.
So if you want to streamline your processes and create consistent systems that anyone can pick up and do, start by outlining each department and the tasks they do each week, month, quarter or year. For example, you may want to document your Accounting procedures for how to use QuickBooks, how to receive payments, how to handle credit card payments, how to create client invoices, how to make deposits, how to make transfers between your IOLTA and operating accounts or how to process payroll.
Once you’ve identified your bigger tasks, you’ll want to list out the obvious steps. Then you’ll want to look at your list and ask yourself, could someone off the street pick up this list and complete the task thoroughly and correctly? Will they know how to find materials or resources they’ll need? Will they know who to call to answer questions or confirm receipt of an order?
Try to remember all the little steps you had to figure out the first time you did that task and include them – these are your nitty gritty details. No detail is too small or too specific. The more specific you are, the less likely a misstep will happen. How many times have you spent hours tracking down bits and pieces of information to complete just one task? Yep. It really adds up.
Next, be sure to add in links to resources and other training guides related to the task. And lastly, make sure as new team members come on board, you remember to update your task lists during their training process.
Doing some legwork now creating your procedure lists will save you countless hours in the future. You’ll be glad you invested the time!
Director of Member Services
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
9444 Balboa Avenue, Suite 300
San Diego, California 92123
Phone: (858) 453-2128