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The Ghost of Automations Past

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by Barbara Jones, Small Business Automation


Are you afraid that if you announce a new automation project your staff will roll their eyes?  Put on their polite “Humor her and she will forget all about it by the end of the week” faces?  Are you haunted by the Ghost of Automations Past? 

Small Business owners who have so far not managed to automate work processes often find the idea of doing so scary.  That’s understandable.  It’s okay.  What is not okay is staying scared because then nothing good happens.  The key is to take a hard look at what is so scary.  Some possibilities:


Staff Do Not Want To

Maybe you started this before and then lost focus.  Staff members consider the announcement of a new automating effort wasted time.  They will be right if you have no strategy, no method, no guidelines.  In fact, the word “effort” should not be used in discussing this because the word implies a lack of faith about the outcome.  Use words like “plan”, “goal,” “timeline” and the response will be more positive.  Communicate openly and honestly about your strategy. 


Some Staff Will Fight Change Hard

You know that some members of your staff will actually work against you.  That will not be fun.  Using automation to help standardize your work processes is a surprisingly powerful way to avoid triggering that anger.  Using automation redirects the entire conversation in a very productive way.


You May End Up Firing Someone

Yes, you may – and if it will be the first time it will be tough.  Owners of successful small businesses learn to make these hard decisions for the good of the business.  No one enjoys it.  There are good ways and bad ways to do it so reach out for help. Talk to other business owners who have had to do it or hire a coach. 


It Will Be Disruptive to the Business – Cash Flow Will Suffer

Standardizing and automating work processes really is chaotic and disruptive without a strategy.  Defining a strategy in advance, communicating it clearly, and sticking with the plan and the timeline are essential to success.  Everybody has a role.  The business owner is the project manager.  If you are not a good project manager either bring one in from outside or designate an employee to take on the role.  Big Caution:  that employee must be relieved of some daily responsibilities so they have time to project manage.  They must have your full, repeatedly stated support or there will be no success.


Staff Think Jobs Will Be Lost

Everyone thinks automating work processes costs jobs because everyone knows someone who lost a job to automation or thinks they did.  In small businesses that is seldom the case because jobs change in content rather than going away.  Repetitive tasks turned over to automation free people to do things the business seriously need them to do that only people can do.  Think as much as you can about how current jobs will change so you have ready answers when staff members ask.  It is very important you be able to talk comfortably and confidently about this.


Banishing the Ghost of Automations Past

If the business owner can think and talk clearly about what the future will look like after automation, the Ghost of Automations Past starts to fade.  How do you do that?

Dig out old To-Do Lists from desk drawers and hard drives.

This list is usually enough to get a group started thinking about positive outcomes of automation.  And then something interesting happens.

 Poof! The Ghost of Automations Past evaporates..