This article was based on episode 136 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Get a free session with Mamie to help you document your processes when you become a member at themodernmanager.com/join. Get an extended free trial and discounted price for SweetProcess when you sign up at www.sweetprocess.com/modernmanager.
Whether you’re onboarding a new hire or writing up HR hiring procedures, every successful organization needs documentation to explain to their employees the standard operations. Owen McGab Enaohwo discovered this necessity while running an agency that provided Philippines-based virtual staff for US companies. He saw the same problem come up again and again: managers spent too much time and energy explaining things to their staff. Frustrated with the limited tools available, Owen created SweetProcess in 2013; an easy-to-use and intuitive business process management software. SweetProcess makes it possible for company executives, managers and team members to collaborate together to quickly document standard operating procedures, processes, and policies. Here, Owen walks us through the nuts and bolts of why and how to document your team and organization practices in a collaborative, effective way.
THREE TYPES OF DOCUMENTATION
For many of us, terms like process and procedure are interchangeable. For Owen, these terms refer to specific types of information that teams benefit from documenting.
Procedure: A checklist of steps to accomplish a certain task, like directions from how to get from point A to point B.
Policy: Information that provides general guidelines, such as a dress code or vacation policy.
Process: A large, complicated workflow that involves many steps.
For each step in a process, there may be procedures or policies that provide additional detail and guidance. For example, a company’s hiring process may be quite robust and lengthy, beginning with seeking approval to hire and ending with a signed offer. It will include a series of procedures, each of which has specific tasks to complete before moving on to the next step. There may also be company guidelines or policies that further provide guidance, such as where jobs may be posted or how to calculate a salary offer. Collectively, these procedures and policies make up the hiring process.
HOW TO DOCUMENT EFFECTIVELY AND EFFICIENTLY
Start with something important.
If you’re ready to start documentation, Owen suggests two helpful places to begin: bottlenecks and critical information. If you find there are questions that come up over and over again, these topics are prime material for documentation. Once the information is captured, you can refer colleagues to it rather than having to explain each time.
Alternatively, if you have critical information or workflows that must be completed accurately, your team will benefit from having these documented for easy review. Team members cann reference the information and follow along in order to ensure work is completed right the first time.
It can feel overwhelming to try to capture every aspect of a procedure or process. Don’t get ahead of yourself or make things overly complicated. Start with what Owen calls the minimum viable procedure by writing just the title of the procedure and each of the steps. This provides the high level overview or framework which can be enhanced over time.
Include the people closest to the work.
Documentation should be a collaborative effort. Rather than cranking out all of the information yourself, let your team fill in the details and enhance the information as time goes on.
FOSTER IMPROVEMENT THROUGH DOCUMENTATION
In the spirit of continuous improvement, encourage your team members to optimize and enhance procedures over time. As they perform documented tasks, when they come across incorrect or missing information, they can add in data to improve the documentation. If they find a better way to complete a task, they can share that information by updating the procedure for everyone’s benefit.
Remember that documentation isn’t a universal remedy. The benefit of documentation is that it enables you to figure out the root problem. Without documentation, it’s not always clear why mistakes were made. On the other hand, if a task is not done properly even though you have documentation, this could shed light on the real problem at hand. Perhaps information may be missing or in need of updating within the documentation. Or, an employee may lack the skill needed to get the job done. Or shortcuts were taken due to a lack of capacity or motivation.
Though it can seem overwhelming to begin documenting your processes, procedures and policies, the truth is that getting your documentation in place will save you time in the long term. By giving your teammates clear expectations and procedures in one, central location, you avoid wasting energy dealing with confusion and repetitive questions. Plus, it gives your team members more freedom and autonomy to take the information and run with it creatively. When you add in collaboration and feedback, documentation can be a powerful method for strengthening a team and improving the way work is done.
KEEP UP WITH OWEN
SweetProcess webinar demo: https://my.demio.com/recording/OuosUYm6
Get a free session with Mamie to help you document your processes when you become a member at themodernmanager.com/join.
This article was based on episode 136 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher.