Is Your Team Playing a Game of Hot Potato?

How to align your standard operating procedures to meet the needs of your e-commerce business

Striking the perfect balance between micro-managing a team and giving them too little guidance can be a daily struggle for managers, HR personnel and business owners. Every team leader has their own leadership style, of course, but knowing where to get involved and when to let your team figure things out for themselves is no easy feat. In fact, this is likely one of the most common problems that can be traced across all kinds of businesses – from small e-commerce start-ups to established multinationals!

No matter how well-prepared you are before launching an e-commerce business, the caveats may only become noticeable after things really start to take off. But when a business doesn’t seem to be meeting its targets, is it fair for managers to get all the flak for an underperforming team when every individual employee is involved? 

Well, whatever your issue of concern may be, it’s always worth digging a little deeper to get to the root of the issue.

Most of the time, you’ll find your team members may be deeply involved in a long-running game of hot potato. If you’ve ever worked in a fast-paced environment, where new technology is introduced regularly, you’ll likely know this to be true (and if not, then keep doing what you’re doing!).

Why do teams play hot potato?

All teams can fall prey to the hot potato game for a wide array of reasons; a lack of well-defined roles and responsibilities, changing processes, evolving technology, and high turnover of staff are merely a few examples. 

But, the hot potato scenario proves to be both a symptom and a cause of the problem.

This is especially true of a growing small to medium-sized business, as change is always a necessary part of growth. Yet, if not handled properly, change can also bring confusion. When people don’t know what tasks fall under their remit – or don’t have enough time, knowledge or skill to take on newly-introduced tasks – it’s all too easy to shirk off responsibility and pass on work to another member of the team, or even another department within the company! 

But once the potato goes full circle, it returns to your hands. And guess what? You’ll find that it’s still as scorching hot as it was the first time around.

So what do you do?

First of all, you need to identify the reasons why your team is playing hot potato. Start by asking yourself a few questions, such as When was the last time a task was completed without your interference? Do the tasks that you create or delegate often come back to the source? And is it taking longer time than necessary for tasks to be handled?

If you answered yes to these questions, your team is most definitely in need of some direction. You may want to consider taking the following steps to solve this issue:

    1. Identify what’s causing your team to repeat the same formulation of the task at hand, be it lack of time, resources or something else.
    2. As a director, department manager or HR professional, you will need to analyse the task that is being passed around, breaking down its complexity and how it links to subsequent tasks. 
    3. Take a deep dive into your company’s current financial and human resources to ensure that there is enough manpower and budget to support your team members working on the given tasks, or identify whether it’s time to bring in new team members. 
    4. Evaluate your Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and decide what changes or updates need to be made. SOPs should be clear enough for all team members to follow, answer the necessary questions and provide clarity about who’s responsible for each task. If your current SOPs don’t answer these questions well enough, it’s time to update them to reflect the current and future needs of your e-commerce business.
    5. Ensure that SOPs are being followed by every member of your team at all times!

How often should you update your company’s Standard Operating Procedures?

As a rule of thumb, a company’s Standard Operating Procedures should be updated once a year at the very least. 

If you notice that your team is playing hot potato, there’s probably something that could be improved in your business’ SOPs. In this case, there’s no need to wait until the annual review but you can go ahead and tackle the problem at the root. The more regularly your SOPs are maintained, the less likely you are to experience common frustrations related to staff changes, unrealistic targets and results, and unclear team roles.

Finally, detailed and up-to-date SOPs will help members of your team know what’s expected of them, how they should achieve it, and what to do in case of any uncertainty! 

Updating SOPs for an e-commerce business

SOPs are intrinsic to a well functioning business. In a fast-paced environment such as the e-commerce industry, where technological innovation and growth are commonplace, SOPs can help members of your team identify their precise roles.

Updating your e-commerce business’ standard operating procedures could be the solution you’ve been looking for. Reach out to a member of our team for help with reviewing your SOPs, or take a look at our blog for more helpful e-commerce business insights!

Could you use a helping hand in examining any of the areas listed above?

Get in touch today!