Systems and procedures – are they applied consistently?

The more people that work in a business, the harder it becomes to ensure systems and procedures are being followed. Add in one or more locations and the task becomes even harder.

You can have all sorts of documentation setting out how things are to be done – but without sitting like a parrot on someone’s shoulder and seeing what they are doing, there are always means of bucking the system. Do you really need a “big brother” is watching everything you do mentality? And is this a good use of time and resource- no!!

Unless someone mentions it, or perhaps, more often, lets it slip in conversation there is probably no way of knowing that different offices work in different ways – in their own little silos. When staff work in a different office for a while, perhaps to cover sickness, or to ease temporary work peaks and troughs, this presents another opportunity to find things are “different”.

There is often no right or wrong, black or white way of doing things, which does make it even more difficult. There are often better ways but the way something is being done may take slightly longer – the end result being the same.

Take as an example the filing of a tax return with HMRC. The software brings a message up on screen – it is easy to highlight this message, copy it and paste it as a note to the signed page - (which may be a scanned document or an online portal certificate of approval) – in the document management software. Someone else may decide to copy and paste it into a Word document, then save that as a separate document into the document management software. It takes a few seconds more, a few extra steps – but the same result. Where it does become irksome however, is those that decide they do not like the document software but pay lip service to it, continuing to maintain paper files too! So, the word document is printed out, scanned into the document management software and the printout is hole punched and filed on a paper file! I have seen this happening!!!!

You could challenge – why bother to keep the receipt at all – after all it is retained inside the tax software? Trying to locate it among thousands of others is not quite so easy – and we have had cause to send HMRC the receipts in recent months.

One office writes the scanning reference number on all items of post once scanned. These scanned documents are saved to the document management system and the originals placed in a box and every few months sent for secure shredding. If someone, on a very rare occasion, needs to retrieve a scanned document (before it has been sent for shredding obviously(!), it is relatively easy to find as they are in reference order. However, the other office does not reference the scanned documents– despite it being in the procedures notes.

How do you ensure systems are applied consistently and being adhered to without being “big brother”?