Quality process documentation
Here is a brief guide on How Process documents save money for your business. Remember, that processes need to be documented thoroughly, else risk failure:
- Not explaining the purpose of the task
- Omitting information
- Including unnecessary and distracting information
Poorly written and out-of-date documents do NOT allow teams and improve efficiency.
How to write a process document
- Determine the scope of the document and identify your process.
- Will it cover one task in a chain of operations or the entire procedure?
- Consider your audience. What do they already know about the subject? How are they currently approaching and managing events?
- Be sure the Title of the process and introduction is relevant to the content.
- Why or when users need to follow the process
- How it fits into the organisation.
- Provide context to explain why the process is important.
- Describe and list the people who will be involved; use job titles and not names.
- Identify the process boundaries, or start and end points.
- Determine the inputs of the process, or the resources needed to do the process
- Determine the outputs of the process
- Brainstorm all the activities needed to complete the process. This pre-writing strategy is called “listing.”
- Organise the items into sequential steps. Be careful how you split steps. Keep Actions that logically go together.
- if a step includes more than one verb or the word “and,” break into two steps.
- Limit the number of steps—use subheadings for longer tasks and restart numbering under each subheading.
- Use layers—give users more information in less prominent text underneath the main step.
- Expand your steps to include all necessary information, such as potential hazards, troubleshooting advice or examples.
- Construct a process flowchart to visually represent the steps.
- Add any screenshots or graphics to provide clarity.
- Format your information so that it is easy to scan, read and understand. Make use of bullets, tables, headings, etc. Clearly, point out how processes connect to each other.
- Test the process. Watch someone else use it.
- Ask colleagues to check your document and give feedback.
- Remember your documentation is a living document and will need continual updating.
Best practices to writer process documents
- Make documents public and visible to reach all employees and readers.
- Store them in a central location—restricting access makes people think it is only relevant to a certain group.
- Make them easy to edit and search—processes undergo continual change, and new feedback should always be incorporated to improve effectiveness. Review documents at least once a year.
- Be concise—provide only what is necessary.
- Be flexible—be willing to adjust a process as needed to make sure steps come naturally.
- Get feedback from employees—frontline employees can give insight on each step’s importance, shortcuts, etc.
- Capture screenshots of anything difficult to explain.
- Use flowcharts—remember a picture is worth a thousand words Include a checklist to ensure every step is completed.
- Create a template to help standardize documents and ease the process.
- Keep formatting simple.
- Create a style guide for writers.
- Create each document for different processes and rules and not one massive document.
- Document when the process was most recently updated.
- Keep a local backup of the files on your desktop or in a private cloud-based system.
Improving the process
As you check processes, look for specific areas that may need a quality overview to improve efficiencies, such as when a process moves from one person or team to another. Try to minimise unnecessary movement between departments during a process. Be on the lookout for duplicate tasks, and decide if having both is useful or inefficient.
Entrepreneurs need to avoid business myopia—being too close to your processes can keep you from advancing on the business process procedures journey. You need to work on your business and not in it to be able to find key processes and improve them.