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We are all really busy performing our day-to-day work.
Who has time to stop the actual work and write down what it is that we are doing?
It just seems so, well, unproductive.
BUT, documentation is absolutely key to the success of your business.
Here are just some of the reasons why:
- Consistency. Does getting great customer service at your company depend upon which employee is working with the customer? It shouldn’t. Consistently producing and providing your products or services is all important! Every member of your team should know exactly what is expected of them.
- Implementation of Best Practices. By definition, documentation requires your team to look at the process and determine how it can be done better. This results in a more efficient, timely and cost effective workflow.
- Accountability. When a business process is documented, each person can be expected to perform that process well. Appropriate action can justifiably be taken when it is not.
- Measurement. To build and grow a business, you have to be able to measure, report and monitor your progress. Without documentation, measurement and reporting are not reliable.
- Expansion. You may well have a business that has potential as a franchise or could expand to multi-units. In either case, your initial success will rely heavily on how well you documented your processes, procedures and tools.
- Sale or Succession. Without a clear and consistent “manual” that details exactly what your company does as well as how and to whom you sell it, what do you have to sell? Inventory? And if you are planning to move to Tahiti and turn the business over to your daughter, how will she be able to run it without constantly asking how you did something?
In short, you must have some form of documented processes to clarify your work, standardize it so you can achieve consistently exceptional results and have a basis for holding yourself and your employees accountable.
Fortunately, it’s not all that difficult to do.
Read on for our step-by-step DIY documentation plan.
1. Clarify the actual project: what is it exactly that you want to document?
2. Set Goals: what is it that you hope to accomplish with this documentation?
- Identify the very best candidates for our open positions
- Hire these candidates within 30 days of identifying an open position
- Spend less money/staff time on recruiting
- Provide consistency & accountability for successful onboarding of new staff
3. Write down the way you are currently handling the process into an ‘as is’ checklist format. How are you handling the process now? No need to be fancy, just start with the first thing you do and continue writing each following action until the task is completed. Be sure to include the following information:
4. Speak to the person directly responsible for the tasks. As you walk her/him through the checklist of tasks, one-by-one, ask him/her open ended questions such as these:
- How do you perform the task?
- Why do you perform the task in that way?
- Where do you store all the forms, templates, spreadsheets & other information necessary to successfully complete the task? Do these tools need revision?
- Do you have any suggestions for how it could be accomplished better, faster, cheaper, friendlier to the customer etc.
- What additional tools could you use to improve this work?
While the speaker is talking, take detailed notes. Be an effective listener by:
- Being attentive
- Being open to accepting new idea
- Not assuming that you know what the other person will say
- Encouraging the person to speak freely and build on their idea
- In short, listen a whole lot more than you talk
As the conversation winds down, talk through the changes that were discussed and make decisions about what the improved process should be.
5. Revise your ‘as is’ checklist to reflect the information learned. Now that you have a better process in place, you can begin the work of actually documenting it.
6. Do the checklist test. The good news is…you can document as exhaustively or as sparely as fits your needs. If your group can work effectively from a checklist with the appropriate forms and other information available – no need to document any further. You can proceed directly to revising the forms/vendor information etc. and make sure it’s all stored where it can be accessed quickly and easily. Good to go.
But if your business needs documents that are a bit more formal, keep reading.
7. Determine desired format for final documents. There are many ways to put it into writing, including:
Traditional Standard Operating Procedures Manual Format
Textbook style with chapter
Magazine format for easy readability
Online and interactive
There is no one right way.
Just pick the format that makes the most sense for your business.
Consider the following tips:
- Make it a Word document so that it can be easily updated
- It should consist of 3 main sections:
- Comprehensive table of contents
- Narrative with lots of bullet points, white space and graphics
- Links to an appendix or other appropriate reference materials
- Comprehensive table of contents
- Put in place a regular system of backing up the materials
- Password protect the materials to prevent little changes being made here and there by your staff as they use the documentation
- Make it available in both print and electronic format
Getting started is the difficult part. Don’t worry about making it perfect, just follow the above steps, creating your checklist and improving as you go – one process at a time.
Contact us if you need some help.
We’ll pay it forward by walking you through Steps 1, 2 & 3 FREE OF CHARGE!