Robust Systems

Building Robust Systems

Robust Systems is not about is spending days and days and days writing some sort of operating manual for your business.

It is about creating Robust systems in their business that they can use to help them deliver consistent results.

The idea is you take the tasks that you do most, and we make them consistent using the ROBUST Framework.

That’s building Robust Systems in this instance.

When you begin to build systems within your business, you can start to hand over tasks that you commonly do as the business owner to somebody else, freeing up your time to do other things.

What is it that you do in the business?

More often than not the business owner does the highest income-generating task.

But if you’re busy doing other stuff, then you may find that the highest income-generating task is done less frequently than you’d like. This stops you from becoming more successful in business.

Something as simple as building a system that allows somebody else to do something that you would normally do will free up some time.

So when it comes to building a system, your system must be robust.

What do I mean by robust?

Robust is an acronym that I use whenever I build a system.


R -repeatable results.

O -optimized resources,

B -balanced.

U -user friendly.

S -simple

T -trackable.

As a small business, you may already have a system that worked okay until it was stress tested.

When you got too busy or when the business owner wasn’t there, or whatever   stopped tit functioning.

There are two answers to this:

1. You see an opportunity to improve

2. Systems don’t work

If you decide you need to look at your system and find out why it’s going wrong.

With that attitude, you’re continuously improving your systems which means you will build robust systems without thinking about it.

You need to continuously look at it and improve.

If you just give up and say, systems don’t work, then you’re stuck doing tasks that are not high income generating.

You must somehow build systems that free you up to work on instead of in the business, to do the higher income-generating tasks.

That’s the whole purpose of systems.

There is no other reason, we’re not doing them just because we like to fill in forms or write operating manuals.

The purpose of systems is to free up your time so you can invest that time wherever you see fit.

The other temptation when you stress test a system and it fails is to scrap it and write an entirely new system.

I encourage you not to do that because some of the ideas you had for your original system are probably going to be good. They just need tweaking, and fine-tuning to make them work.

Robust System Improvement Loop

Does this system produce repeatable results?

This is always the first step, if you are building a system from scratch this is the final step, if you are improving a system it is the first question to ask yourself.

Have I Optimised the resources?

Have you got the right person doing the right job? Have you delegated that task to the right person?

I often call this, have you got the right person in the right seat? Cause you can sometimes have the right person in your business doing the wrong job.

And it’s often the business owner who is the right person in the wrong seat. Doing low income-generating tasks when they could be doing high income-generating tasks.

Are you optimizing your resources? Is there somebody who could be doing this or in my case, anyway, in most cases, somebody could do this better?

Is your system balanced?

Are all the inputs and the outputs at least equal?

There is no point building a system that takes up more time than it saves.

Does the system deliver more value in terms of time or even monetary value?

For example, having a system whereby you, you defer a job to somebody else, it could be another business or a freelancer, it costs you something.

But if you were doing one of those higher income-generating tasks would you earn more?

Is the system user friendly?

Is it easy to use or follow? It might be really, really good at saving time, therefore the input and output measure is brilliant, but people don’t want to do it because it’s not user-friendly.

Is the System Simple?

The system must be simple to understand and operate.

Use easy to follow instructions, whether it be a computer system, a program or a tool, whatever it is you’re doing, make it easy to understand and operate.

Is it Trackable?

Finally make sure that all your systems are trackable, quantified, and monitored, and make sure you use them in some sort of closed-loop format.

We’re all used to closed-loop when it comes to something like an engine management system, where we know that the Air Fuel Ratio should be 14.7:1, the Lambda sensors measure the oxygen content and  if it’s lean it adds fuel. It is rich, and it takes fuel away. And it continuously adjusts in a closed-loop fashion.

That’s how systems should work. Continuously monitored to prove they are repeatable.

Example of a Robust System Loop

This real-world example is from a customer that we helped a few years ago.

A garage identified a problem, they were losing hours and hours every week, looking for the locking wheel nut.

Something we are all probably familiar with.

So they asked what can we do?
How can we improve this?

They decided to ask the customer on the phone or when they walked in the location of the locking wheel nut.

They were going to record it on the job card. So the tyre fitter would know the location of the locking wheel nut because it should have been on the job card.

Was it repeatable, did it get results?

This method improved things because they had nothing in place before.

If somebody remembered to ask the customer. Which didn’t always happen.

But more often than not, they were in the usual places. Therefore, the tyre fitter was able to find it by chance, more than by design.

They found that around about 70% of the time, the location of the locking wheel nut appeared on the job card and the locking wheel nut was where the customer said it was.

They tracked how often they needed to ask a customer once the car was already in the tyre fitting bay, plus they measured how many times it wasn’t recorded on the job card and that’s how they got to their 70%.

Optimised Resources?

The next thing they examined was the person doing the job, was it the correct person?

In this case, it sounds obvious, it will be the person booking it in, or the person dealing with the customer, simply the person asking the question.

In terms of optimising resources, it is what it is.

Is it balanced?

Are the inputs and the outputs measured?

It took an extra couple of minutes to record the information, the average missing wheel nut took about 20 minutes in terms of lost time is what they discovered with this data.

It was more than balanced. The few minutes it took extra to book the customer in was more than saved by the tyre fitter not having to look for the locking wheel nut.

Was the system User friendly?

Yes. But it was also easy to forget to ask.

Was it simple?

It was incredibly simple. All they had to do was ask the customer and record it on the job card.

As part of the continuous improvement loop, they asked:

How could they improve that system?

They changed it from asking the customer where it was to asking the customer to place the locking wheel nut on the passenger seat.

And when they turned up at the tyre fitting shop, they asked the customer again, that was the only difference.

In terms of repeatable results, this method worked approximately 90% of the time.

Nine times out of 10, the locking wheel nut was on the passenger seat.

Was it optimising resources?

Now the onus is on the customer, not to tell you what it was, but to put it somewhere.

Was it balanced?

They, also said they were going to introduce a charge (I don’t think they ever followed through on this), of 20 minutes’ labour if the locking wheel nut was not found.

Is it user-friendly?

Is it simple?

It can’t get any easier. You don’t even have to record it on the job card.

How do you know if it’s working? Look on the passenger seat is the locking wheel nut there?

One of the reasons why this became more prevalent was during COVID. They didn’t want it to be rummaging through boots and glove boxes, looking for stuff and touching any more surfaces within the vehicle.

That was one of the justifications they used for implementing this system.

The beauty of this system, and this is where I think they smashed this out of the park was when they placed the locking wheel nut in a brightly coloured bag with the garage name and telephone number on it after the repair.

A constant reminder to the customer of who looks after their tyres, and the fact that the locking wheel nut had been returned.