Acing the Bus Test
By Kenny Stevenson
Yesterday, I was driving along Main Street on my way to the office when I saw my business partner, Trace Steffen. He was wandering along on the sidewalk, no real destination in mind, blissfully sucking on a Styrofoam Big Gulp while engrossed in a podcast. It was great to see him so relaxed in his sky blue half-zip polo sweatshirt and neon New Balance sneakers. The weather was beautiful, the usual shoppers and Pokémon Go zombies were still at home, and I couldn’t help myself but to slow down and take in the scene.
It was at that exact moment, Trace’s life flashed before my eyes. I had an epiphany, “Would HowFactory survive if that SUV jumped the curb and took him out!?”
Ok, so I was being a bit dramatic, but like my oblivious co-founder, my mind continued to wander:
• How do I authorize our IP to connect to the AWS servers?
• Where do I find the latest financial model for next week’s investor meeting?
• I have no idea how to add the new printer to my Mac.
• Ugh, Trace never did add that new channel to my Slack app.
And so the point was proven: Trace’s implied value is connected to so much more than just his job title. This concept is often referred to as “the bus test.” Trace’s lost experiences and missing strategic vision would cripple our operations, and because of this, our company culture is laser focused on creating and sharing company processes. In the same spirit, we built the HowFactory mobile application to help our clients brace for when the proverbial bus hits their human resources.
If process is your product, it must be documented.
All too often companies experience high levels of growth without solid employee training programs in place. New hire on-boarding becomes a vicious cycle of mentoring and lost productivity. The cycle plays out like this:
• New Hire job shadows Old Dog.
• Old Dog’s output suffers.
• Old Dog is pulled back into production.
• New Hire sits, twiddling thumbs, waiting for direction.
As a company leader, is your goal to sideline your top producers when you need them the most? I didn’t think so. Taking time to document processes and create dynamic knowledge bases on the front-end of growth cycles is difficult, but crucial. When the overtime hits and the employee turnover begins, return on your investment will be crystal clear.
Embrace the Evolution
I absolve you from ever thinking you will have 100% of your processes documented, especially if you are in the start-up phase like we are. It feels to me that HowFactory switches things up daily so we place a higher emphasis on documenting repeatable processes as opposed to all processes. While this mindset might differ from the enterprise perspective, as a growing company, we document new ideas at the point of implementation then revise our procedures over time as new approaches evolve. That being said, there are definitely best practices that will help your organization stay prepared for when the proverbial sky falls.
Make information sharing a first priority.
I’m not talking surface level here; I’m talk engrained-in-company-culture kind of information sharing. From new clients to new employees to break room coffee vendors – the details of the relationship are immediately placed in a shared cloud location. This response to new information isn’t isolated to any specific title or pay grade either – everyone gets in on the information sharing game.
Recognize information bottlenecks and solve them.
All too often is the phrase, “But, that’s how it’s always been done,” is uttered in an organization. By continuing to use the same inferior process that creates the bottleneck, repeatable, shared activities will never occur. Whether you brainstorm, invest in a new piece of software, or hire that annoying third party you keep receiving spam emails from – INNOVATE!
1. Pinpoint the flow of business creating the bottleneck.
2. Who knows what? Uncover all of the assumed, unshared knowledge employees take for
3. Document the process to the point where anyone can follow it without shouting for help.
Any money spent on alleviating the bottleneck will pay for itself ten times over in future efficiency.
Pretend you are an outsider.
If a process is crystal clear to you, are you 100% positive it is crystal clear to the next guy? When moving away from “old- school know-how” to “new-age show-how,” it’s crucial to step back and look at your documentation masterpiece through the eyes of a kindergartener.
• Is it too complex?
• Is it not detailed enough?
• What blanks are being filled in by our own experience and understanding?
• Is this process obsolete?
I suggest asking a disinterested third party to take a look at your documentation. Don’t take his or her feedback personally, learn from it. Sure, you know how to execute the process, but do you understand why this process exists? Would someone brand new to your company need background information to connect the dots?
The reality is that employees and founders come and go. The HowFactory mission is to change how companies create, use, and share knowledge. Our goal is to turn dead, static documents into living, breathing corporate memories that can be shared companywide. If you feel like your world could use some new-fashioned show-how, don’t hesitate to contact me, Kenny, or one of my teammates today.