One aspect of working with others, often a stumbling block for me, is system transfer.  I have a tendency, self-admitted, to create clunky, rule-laden, overburdened systems for tracking things.

Are the systems we create reflections of how our mind works?


Don’t know where it comes from, but I love to track things.  Always have.  And my preference is via spreadsheet documents, complicated and interlinked, because they provide the greatest degree of specificity.  For 7 years I ran this business on spreadsheets, only switching to quickbooks in 2012.  A good choice, of course, but I had to give up some level of insight into the business  (a tradeoff I have no regrets about, to be clear.)

The challenge of system transfer is a similar challenge to teaching (another task I’m admittedly not great at.)

Recently, Daniel and I worked through system transfer for the time-tracking/ payroll tasks of Seawall.  Since the year end bookkeeping had proved exhausting for me, we decided to split up the company bookkeeping as such:  he would do the weekly timesheet summaries and payroll, I’d do the monthly/ quarterly/ annual payroll tax filings and such.

The “system” I had developed on my own for tracking time employees spent on various activities was fairly convoluted, once we started to address transfer.  It worked, in the sense that it tracked with a high level of accuracy and detail, but it involved 5 or 6 different spreadsheets and a written component for employees to note by hand their daily activities.

(when in doubt, I default to handwriting. It’s hard to fake or make mistakes with handwriting. And, we still don’t have, or want, a computer at the workshop.)

But, it was complicated.  It’s good to have a second pair of eyes, and when we deal with system transfer we start to see how complicated our systems have gotten.  Because I had this one memorized it didn’t seem so terrible (about 30 minutes a week to do payroll for four people and two companies) –  but trying to explain it to someone else highlighted the flaws.

Daniel, always aware that there probably is a “free and pretty good” tech solution out there, found a free time tracking app that worked on an iphone or ipad.  I gave up some of my need for granularity, and the time tracking task was reduced greatly.

So what’s the point of the story?  Developing systems in a vacuum leads to more complexity than might be necessary.  At least for me.





Posted by:Brook DeLorme

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