We’re coming upon the last two weeks of our series: 10 Weeks of Productivity. Hopefully, you’re getting to the point where a lot of the dirty work (fighting change, picking apart processes, assessing talent) is starting to get cleaned up. Now it’s time for the finishing touches. This week’s topic, Make It Official, is all about taking everything you’ve learned, discovered, uncovered, cleaned up and fine-tuned over the last eight weeks, and putting it all together in a pretty, little package. Next week, when we unpack the topic of maintenance, we’ll show you how to keep that pretty, little package pretty.

Week 9: Make It Official

First off, let me clarify what I mean by pretty, little package.  You’ve gone through the hard work of streamlining processes and unveiling valuable resources. Perhaps you’ve had to learn a new tool and teach others. Maybe you’ve eliminated old, inefficient systems and invested in newer technology. You’ve undoubtedly reviewed, tested and modified daily processes. So, how do you keep your shiny, new processes and procedures from becoming tangled balls of yarn again? One word: Document. Additional words: It might not be little, but it can be pretty.

Document Your Processes

You’d be surprised at how many organizations I work with whose daily operations involve highly complex, sometimes confidential, and always revenue-impacting procedures, that aren’t documented anywhere. Let me repeat. Highly Complex. Confidential. Revenue Impacting. Not Documented. Maybe you’re not surprised because I’m describing your company?! In that case, I have some good news and bad news. You want the bad news first, right? You have a problem. The good news is, there lies a solution to your problem.

Getting all of your newly organized, squeaky clean processes documented in an official manner, not only makes life a lot easier for your current employees, but it also makes training new hires a much more efficient process.  Here’s a high level breakdown of some of the types of procedural documents you should be using in your business.

Standard Operating Procedures

A Standard Operating Procedures, or SOP, is a set of step-by-step instructions to guide employees through a specific process. The goal of a Standard Operating Procedure is consistency, quality and efficiency. All good things! An SOP might be a quick one-page document, or it could be several pages including a table of contents, diagrams and charts. Here are some things to consider when writing SOPs:

  1. Consistency. Use the same format for all of your SOPs. Whether they are 1 page or 20 pages, keep the numbering systems, fonts and style consistent. This will help users quickly navigate the documents.
  2. Version Control. Processes change, therefore, SOPs change. Keep them labeled with the current version name or number, and ensure that all users get a current version when changes are made.
  3. Accountability. You’ll hear all about this next week when we talk about how to sustain and maintain productivity. As it applies to SOPs, however, have all users sign off each time a new version is released.

Training Manuals

Training manuals take the idea of Standard Operation Procedures a bit further. They may be a compilation of SOPs, or they may be more detailed versions, directed toward the new employee. Training manuals should exhibit the following characteristics:

  1. All inclusive. Although current employees sometimes require “retraining”, the purpose of a training manual is for use with a new employee. Assume they know nothing, so be specific and detailed.
  2. Visual. Many people are visual learners. Whenever possible include screen prints of processes, diagrams, charts and text boxes to call out important reminders, warnings or tips.
  3. Define everything. There’s nothing worse than being involved in a conversation with your new colleagues and having no idea how to decode their jargon. Include a glossary with company terms and acronyms.

Policies and Procedures Documents

Policies and Procedures documents contain the more permanent, non process related information. Think of these as the safety procedures and HR related procedures. These are important to have not only for the safety of your employees, but also for legal purposes. Examples of Policies and Procedures Documents include:

  1. Safety procedures. Make sure your employees know what to do and where to go in case of an emergency.
  2. HR policies. Here’s where you can include information about harassment, absenteeism, code of conduct, etc.
  3. Company specific policies. These are the items that aren’t necessarily day to day procedures that require an SOP, but policies that employees need to know and follow.  Examples are parking policies or technology use agreements.

Maximize Your Resources

As you implement these physical or electronic entities into your daily operations, you can expect to see a positive impact to your most valued resources almost immediately. My clients report greater consistency, less errors and more TIME spent on revenue-generating activities when the proper procedural documents are in place.

Creating procedural documents is a great way to leverage your TALENT. Someone on your team might be proficient in and passionate about formatting SOPs and training manuals. This creates a development opportunity for your employee, and aligning people with roles they are passionate about is a characteristic of highly productive organizations.

In going through the process of streamlining and documenting processes and procedures, it’s likely you will discover features, functions and applications of your current TECHNOLOGY that will greatly contribute to the everyday efficiency of your business.

Leveraging your Time, Talent and Technology by making your processes and procedures official will undoubtedly take your productivity to the next level. Next week, we’ll complete our 10 Weeks of Productivity series by explaining how to maintain accountability and sustain your hard-earned productivity.

Time is the scarcest resource, and unless it is managed nothing else can be managed.  – Peter Drucker


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