Creating Systems at Home and Work

Over the years I have worked for small companies, large companies and medium size companies.  Each has their pros and cons.  Overall I prefer the small and medium companies.  But the con of the small company is definitely training. I will admit that with a small company the learning curve of a job can be a bit steep.  Not because I don’t understand the work but because the training isn’t always that good and the only person who knows the answers to your questions is the person you replaced.  So on some levels you end up re-inventing the wheel.  The past 2 years I have had 3 different jobs each with a different training experience.

First was a part-time job working for my insurance agent.  I was his only employee.  I showed up all excited for what was my historic return back to work after years of focus only on home and family.  My new boss told me he had been up half the night worried about how to train me for the position.  In the past he had hired assistants that came from other agents, they already knew the job, so he hadn’t taught someone how to use the company system in years.  I figured since he was up half the night he must have come up with a plan.  Nope, turns out he was still overwhelmed by the task at 9am.  I spent the first day cleaning the desk and tossing out old marketing brochures.  Eventually he just jumped in and began showing me how to do things one at a time and gave me the freedom to play around on the system and figure a bunch out myself.  I could do the job but this training method didn’t really give me a ton of confidence and not understanding how it all went together I spent a lot of time being very unproductive.

My second job was with larger company that was much more organized.  My position was a newly created position as a result of rapid growth.  All the work I did I got from someone else who was overworked and glad to get rid of it.  They had systems in place for everything and I learned that job quite quickly and felt good about what I was doing.  And because I understood what I was doing I was able to see where I could improve the systems and make it my own.  While I knew almost from the moment I started that this company probably wouldn’t be the right fit for me long term I hated leaving a position I felt so confident in and enjoyed so much.

My current position is with a small company.  The person I replaced had been here for years and knew everything.  However there was no system in place and she had no idea how to pass on 8 years of knowledge to me in a couple weeks.  Eventually she just started responding to all my questions by telling me she didn’t know what she was doing when she started and she figured it out so, I would figure it out too.  After 6 months in this position I am starting to understand what my role in the company is and how to do things.  The down side of replacing someone who did know what she was doing but didn’t have systems in place to pass the information on is, I have looked and felt fairly incompetent on a regular basis for the past 6 months.  So one of my goals for the new year in my job is to define the position and create some systems and instructions for doing it.  I plan to stay put for a few years but, I believe this will not just help the next person that comes along but will help me in be more organized in the day to day tasks and identify areas that need more structure.

This got me thinking about my home and family life.  If you think about your home as a small business then you are the full time employee that left after many years of just taking care of things.  Having identified that replacement workers do not always get proper training in small companies, I started thinking about the training my replacement workers have gotten.  Have I just dumped a bunch of work on my family with vague, “you will figure it out” instructions?  They have seen me do it but, does that mean I taught them what to do?  Or did I have systems in place making it easy to learn and follow instructions as I have stepped out of many past responsibilities?

I am getting organized at work this year, why not at home too?  I am going to think about the systems in my home that need to be established and the ones that exist which I could pass on to my daughter or husband.  Our family schedule revolves around my husband’s school schedule so every semester is different and he has a different level of ability to help around the house.  All the more reason to have home systems in place so we can easily see what needs to be done, how to do and and where to shift the schedule depending on that semester’s needs.

What kind of home systems do you have in place?  Are you prepared to give adequate training to the members of your family as you return to work?

If you don’t know what your kids can and can’t do there is a great chart here at to get you started.