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Why you should document your operations

Bob Utech
PowderVisions - West Concord, MN USA

What kinds of things did you have to do to survive the recession? To survive our recession, some of you must make do with what you have and fix and repair what you have. Process documentation is one way to put a restraint to the challenges of today's fast changing business threats. Transmitting clearly communicated messages are essential for your business's future growth and development. However, transmitting a clear message is only one part of the process. The more important question is whether everyone in your company is getting the same message? Once you have thoroughly documented your operations, you are provided with the tools to improve cost efficiency. These tools can be the difference between operating a business and perhaps closing the doors to some companies.

As a consultant, I am continually amazed at the thought process employees sometimes take when confronted with a company's attempt at advancement and/or business securement. I am speaking of the documentation of work processes.

Some employees (especially floor employees) have expressed concern that documentation won't work in "their" area or that documentation won't help. Many simply don't know what documentation is.

A bad operating manual can be the trigger for a verbal claim of malfeasance from you or a newly hired employee meaning the company knew what to do, but failed to do it or at least pass this information on to the employee. The goal of any company should be the documentation of its specific jobs in the company giving instruction to the employee on how to adequately complete their jobs.

Operating Procedures:

The interesting thing here is that when an operating procedure has been described poorly, the employee may make multiple mistakes until they are taught or shown an apparently much more detailed operating procedure than described to them originally.

It cannot be expected for them, as employees to understand some or many of the verbal explanations of the installation engineer, to write it down and refer to it for later use. The lack of instructions regarding correct manufacturing constitutes a deficiency in the operating manual, thus mistakes will occur.

The deficiency in the operating manual can often result a defect of the purchase item (product or service).

You can prepare yourselves against such scenarios with professional technical documentation. Good, understandable and reliable documentation corresponds to fulfilling the requirements of the job and its equipment.

Correct Documentation:

Your investment in creating professional documentation can often protect the company from large-scale damage and simultaneously increase your customers' satisfaction and promote the image of the company.


How do you insure the quality of your work?

As a matter of principle, all companies try to employ exceptional, qualified employees who know their "handiwork". Nevertheless, we're human and errors occur. This is why your company should have the future vision to create uniform quality standards and written operating procedures. Your company should be asking you to help create documentation and proofread: a process where both text and illustrations are checked for comprehensibility and its relationship to the job.

WHY?

Minimize Risk
Compliance
Communication
Continuity/Repeatability
Education
Process Improvement
Here are reasons why documentation helps:
1. It keeps you on track. If you write down your strategy and your principles, personal emotional storms or distractions won't throw your operation into backsliding or paralysis. You may slow down a bit when things get hard, but you will still be headed in the right direction.
2. You won't have to be mind-readers. If you want to do things the most efficient way every time the way you prefer write down exact instructions for doing those processes, and then work the strategy. This documentation is for those workplace tasks performed over and over again. Take the time to document every single recurring process.
3. You won't have to be fortune-tellers. In your documentation, you will lay out your ambitions, strengths, weaknesses, and how you will get there. It will all be there: no mysteries, questions or confusion.
4. Everyone in your organization will be pointed in the same direction. By outlining the whats and hows of your business, your group-effort will become focused and directed. By traveling in a straight line, your organization will reach goals sooner.
5. You will find yourself working on the causes of problems, not in fixing problems that occur.
6. Training time is reduced. New employees can learn much quicker when learning the job through your documented training procedures. They do it themselves, and your senior people are not caught up in one-on-one training of newcomers.
7. For you, the employee and for your clients, your documentation will signal that you are a professional someone who cares enough about what they do to write it down and analyze it. Your customers will be proud of the work you do for them.

Don't let erroneous implementations fail your company. The major implication of such haphazard application of processes and procedures is a highly negative impact on company performance and vulnerability.

Yes, boring but true: Documentation takes some initial hard work, but in the long-term, the investment pays off a thousand times over.


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