Is your team lean, agile, or kanban? Or maybe you don’t have a management system in place yet? Or perhaps you’re not using any of these well-known systems at all (or even know what I’m talking about with those names)?
Whatever the case is, it’s time to go lean.
The lean team ideology stems from a combination of early philosophies and the industrial production of cars. That’s right: cars. Back when businesses first mass-produced cars, it was cheaper than building one car at a time but was still an expensive process! As a result, one of the car manufacturer’s priorities was to eliminate as much waste as possible from the production line. And that was one of the first times a business implemented lean management.
A lean business values organization, efficiency, and flow, but most of all, it wants to eliminate waste. With the rise of online businesses, we also value having as little “waste” as possible, but for us, it’s not so many physical pieces. For a coach, waste could be:
- Too much time spent on a task with the low return value (it doesn’t impact your revenue)
- An end product that doesn’t align with our vision or values
- Time spent by our contractors trying to figure out the intentions of a task
The list could keep going! That’s why, as a coach and owner of an online business, it’s especially important for you to adopt a lean team in order to eliminate “waste” and start to grow. Today, I’m going to go through with you some of the best practices of a lean management system.
What is a lean team?
As I mentioned above, a lean team focuses on organization, efficiency, and flow. Or in other words, your team members want to make their job easier to do and make it easier for you to tell them what to do. In order to achieve this, you’re going to need people that fit into your lean organization.
You need team members that are both qualified to do their job and have the capacity to complete the job. What I mean by the capacity to complete the job is that they have the desire, time, and initiative to do it. You can learn more about performing a role assessment for your team members here.
One extremely important trait of a great team member that I want to point out is their love for sharing and reflecting. Someone like this is not only dedicated to their own position but wants to help everyone else achieve the same level of organization, efficiency, and flow. During the team meetings, your members should be excited to share valuable insights, information, and metrics with the rest of the team!
Having a lean team means that you’ll get benefits such as:
- Everyone’s on the same page, working toward the same goal (kind of like a family or tight-knit group of friends – you get each other, quirks and all)
- The ability to predict the customer value of any given project
- The potential to reduce wasted time, costs, energy, and more! (it’s the old adage – less is more)
Now that you know what a lean team is made up of, let’s dig right into what you need to do as the leader of your team.
Delegate to elevate
The first step is to determine what your main causes of “waste” are. This could be tasks that you’re doing that take up a lot of time, which distracts you from doing things that matter. This could be tasks that you’re not skilled in, which end up consuming more time than they should. Or, this could be a task that you simply hate doing, which slows you down and decreases your morale. This step is all about distributing responsibility and trusting others to get work done for you.
In order to do this, you’re first going to need a vision. Your vision should be the frame of reference for everything that you do for your business. It is the end goal and metric that you should measure everything you do against. If something doesn’t align with your vision, it’s probably a waste of time, effort, and resources.
With a vision, you can easily achieve two things.
First, you can eliminate tasks that don’t need to get done at all before delegating the rest to your team. For example, maybe your vision as a divorce coach is to help single moms cope with separation, and you find that the meetup you’d been attending caters more toward single and newlyweds. You could easily eliminate this networking task because your ICA does NOT hang out here.
Second, you can use your vision to help your team members get on the same page. If your team is familiar with your vision, they’ll better understand the goals and objectives of the work they have to do. For example, maybe your vision as a life coach includes helping people who need to embrace more creativity in their lives, and you find that most of your ICA hang out on Instagram and Pinterest. Without knowing your vision, your VA ends up wasting time creating content that doesn’t fit with your larger vision (or focusing their efforts on Twitter or LinkedIn – platforms that aren’t likely going to help people embrace creativity).
One of the biggest things I hear from my clients is that they can’t seem to find the opportunities to get their message in front of a new audience (of their ideal clients). Part of this is because they haven’t clearly communicated their vision to their team. So their team is working on finding them opportunities (podcast, speaking, training, summits or other collaborations), but they don’t align with the direction of the business or are not placing their ICA will be spending time. Letting your team know your big vision for your business can help them find the right opportunities to help you grow.
After eliminating tasks that don’t align with your vision, you can then delegate tasks to team members who have the skill and capacity to complete them. When a team member has the desire, time, and initiative to complete a task, they’ll know exactly what you need help with, so they can support the needs of your growing business.
If you need help developing a clear plan that your team can get on board with, one of the tasks that you can delegate to elevate is the integrator role. The integrator is the person who manages the lean team. Although it seems daunting to give away some of your management power, hiring a Director of Operations (DOO) to manage tasks like weekly meetings, hiring and onboarding, managing the projects, tracking your key metrics, creating new operational procedures to enhance efficiency, and more, will free up a lot more time for you to do what you do best: come up with ideas for your business.
Collaborate to create
Now that you know what you want, it’s time to make that happen. Since a lean team is full of motivated go-getters, there’s a bit more involved in creating organization, efficiency, and flow than just delegation of tasks. This is achieved through the implementation of the weekly meeting (or at a minimum, the bi-weekly/monthly meeting).
Yes, this does sound like MORE work. If you’re not someone who is used to running weekly meetings, you may be wondering why would I pay someone to attend a meeting?
When you’re building a lean team, you’re admitting something very human and very important about running a business: you can’t do it alone. When you’ve hired these people for your team, you’re trusting that they’re skilled workers who have the capacity to fill their roles. What this means is that they’re going to have valuable input that will accelerate the organization, efficiency, and flow of your business.
Also, think of all the back and forth communication, notifications and demands on your time that could be eliminated by gathering the team and quickly talking through any issues. A quick 30-45 minute meeting could save you more than double that time, and also speed up the time it takes your team to complete their tasks.
At a weekly meeting, usually run by a Director of Operations (DOO), your team members should have the opportunity to discuss the projects, their challenges or any ongoing concerns. They should be involved in sharing insights, information, and metrics, as well as setting boundaries and expectations with the rest of the team.
For example, your VA could share what hashtags are trending on social media, so that your copywriter could create a piece on that topic. Or maybe your PR person could notify the team that you have two potential opportunities within the next month that are going to need coverage across the board, so the rest of the team can set aside extra working hours.
This is all about making sure everyone is operating in accordance to the vision, but also collecting best practices to make your business even more organized and efficient.
It all comes back to process. One of the major backbones of lean management is having good processes in place. A successful team will have between three and seven core processes that run the bulk of their business. Within these processes, there will be sub-processes, but they will all fall under your three to seven core processes.
Processes are also referred to as Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). Effective SOPs will help your team achieve:
- Organization, efficiency, and flow. With a process in place, there’s little room for confusion as to who should be doing what, when. You can always refer back to the process and see exactly who’s responsible and accountable for every step of the way.
- High standards. If it’s written down, it’s got to be true! If your standards and expectations are included in your process, they will be clearly communicated and understood by the members of your team.
- Customer satisfaction. Customer hiccups most often arise from the “if everyone’s responsible, no one’s responsible” problem. A customer issue often goes through multiple hands before it’s resolved. With a process in place, your team members should know exactly who to go to if a customer issue arises and within how long the issue should be resolved.
A few examples of processes are:
- Course launch
- Sales funnel
- Facebook group management
Your SOPs should be developed and adapted over time by you and your team as you see fit.
Having a stellar project management system to oversee where you’re at with each of these steps, to breakdown your projects into smaller tasks (and assign a team member and deadline) also makes it much easier to manage your team (with less time and effort involved on your part).
Don’t waste time-solving problems that someone else has already solved
Once you have a stellar vision you’re excited about, the right people doing the right jobs to achieve that vision, and processes in place to make sure they get done, the next step is to tune and fine-tune until you start reaping all the benefits of having a lean team.
Part of fine-tuning is implementing solutions that have already been tried-and-tested instead of trying to develop everything from scratch.
The first step to that is automation. There are a ton of tools out there available for you to use for every step of the way. These tools save a ton of time and money by making it easier for you to collaborate with your clients and team members. Although each platform will have a bit of a learning curve, the increased organization, efficiency, and flow will be so worth it!
Three of my favourite automation platforms are:
- Dubsado. Dubsado is a customer relationship management (CRM) platform that allows you to create automated workflows that can assist with onboarding and offboarding your clients with minimal effort. I’m really not doing this platform justice with this description. You’ll have to check out their website to see all the benefits of this CRM.
- Acuity. Acuity is a scheduler that allows you to manage your appointments all in one place, without all that back and forth discussion of availability (and time zone issues).
- ActiveCampaign. Active Campaign is my email service provider. They are simple enough to get started but robust enough to grow with your business (without having to transfer all your lists and tags over to a new platform)
The second step to that is hiring experts. You might not need someone full-time to solve your problems, and the online business world is the perfect place to get expert experience only when you need it. For example, a Director of Operations (DOO) has likely solved a lot of the early management problems that arise based on their own experiences as a fractional worker for other businesses. Or, bringing in an operations consultant to help you set up your lean team management system would be much more organized and efficient than doing it yourself.
And there you have it. Developing a lean team is no easy task, but putting together all of the right people and components will help your business grow faster than ever. A successful lean team will continue to put your vision into practice. Even as members rotate in and out, your lean team should continue to:
- Have all team members working toward the same goal at the same time
- Be able to create content that customers find value in at every step of the journey
- Reduce waste in terms of time, costs and more!
With a lean team, you’ll be able to pick up speed in no time and get back to focusing on the big ideas you have, rather than getting stuck in the weeds of your business. All you’ll need to get started is:
- A vision to help you delegate to elevate
- Weekly (or bi-weekly) meetings to help you collaborate to create
- Processes that let everyone know who’s responsible and accountable for every step of the way
- Tools and experts to make solving problems easier for you