Organizing your internal and external processes
One of the top challenges of organizations, in all sectors, is a lack of clarity and organization within their processes.
One of the first things that I do with my clients is to take an inventory. We review a broad range of areas within the business and ask questions like, what documentation exists? What process is already in place that should be documented?
We may not work on a social media plan together but it is important in doing the work to understand everything that exists like a social media plan so we can create the structure and sustainability for our operational systems.
We ask questions such as:
Where can people find things?
How will a new person be trained?
How can we keep from duplicating efforts?
Policies vs procedures
There is generally a clear separation between a policy and a procedure. Policies tend to be dictated by higher powers such as federal and state lawmakers. They are bigger picture and essentially what procedures are based upon.
A procedure on the other hand may be a step-by-step checklist or video of who does what, when, and then passes off to another. There may be infographics of handoffs to visually represent the flow of work. These are generally used on a regular basis and updated more frequently than the policies from which they come.
This document highlights a few considerations for why and how to create documentation.
Approach training as an opportunity to work systems that strengthen your organization, your team, your value proposition, and your profitability or mission fulfillment.
Having a consistent location and filing system takes documentation from a box checked to being the most useful asset of an organization. The first thing employees need to know is how to find what they need. If this process isn’t already in place or someone has to ask for each individual item to find out who’s desktop or Google My Drive, then you may have some serious issues.
Aside from helping to make work more efficient, this does numerous things to your workplace. Their existence benefits the organization in multiple ways:
- demonstrates to employees that you not only care to help them do their job better but value the time investment of systematization
- creates more value to a potential valuator, investor, donor, or partner
- provides a more sustainable future in case something happens to key employees (want to exit, go on a vacation, hire a replacement, etc.)
When auditing documentation that already exists, you often figure out that you have more than you realized. Yay! But more importantly, you have a clear view of what is missing that could lead to major hang ups. Or what great plan you created a year ago but has not been consistently followed.
In the world of documentation, it doesn’t make sense to document everything. Practices (or even software) that change frequently may only need a clear overview versus step-by-step guides. And the more you document the more organization you need to ensure that it is utilized.
Seeing an overview all in one place allows you prioritize and create an action plan to take things to the next step. And index can go a long way in providing and overview and searchable place to go when in need of instructions.
interacting with each other internally
When thinking about systems and documentation of processes and procedures, it is helpful to categorize them into buckets. Understanding what process illustrates an internal procedure vs an external one can be helpful in bringing over big principles.
Creating ground rules, points of culture, communication plans are all great ideas for documentation of internal systems. But more importantly, building the environment where people can best communicate needs, support each other, and work things out on their own allows people to help themselves and less management of this process. This doesn’t happen with a snap of the fingers but must be created with intention, supported by documentation, management leading by example, and reinforcement of said standards.
interacting with external vendors, partners, and customers
Often, one of the first things to be documented is how to deal with external parties. Imagine an organization or business starting out small, and an owner or leader wearing most of the hats. They find methods that work or support the vision of the product or service. When handing over processes, an easy foot in the door is one that helps your customers stick around when you aren’t the one doing the work or dealing with them. You have already found what works and the only way to scale – or take a vacation – is to prove it can be replicated by others.
At the point of teaching others these standards is the best time to document them. Training others forces you to put it into words, video, explanation and to realize what made sense in your own head that might not to someone else. Approach training as an opportunity to work on systems that strengthen your organization, your team, your value proposition, and your profitability or mission fulfillment.
This doesn’t mean a rigid system of micromanaging but rather a way to support someone another person being successful at what someone else already is. It is a starting ground for discussing what is working and how adjustments might be made moving forward. Time changes, customer needs change, the person doing the job changes or has different strengths than the one before. The documentation is a basis for support, not a reason to never change.
What is legally or ethically required to operate? How are your internal controls creating a transparent organization? Within every industry or corporation type there are rules required of financial reporting, human resources, manufacturing, and the list goes on.
Creating documentation of policies to have on hand is useful for employees to know what rights exist for them. But it is just as important for the company and management to refer to when questions arise. It is also something to point to when a board of directors or advisor is asked to step in or a formal review is required.
REVIEW AND REVISION
Policies and procedures aren’t meant to be static for all time. A regular review process must be set up to ensure that practices are maintaining compliance with updates to regulation as well as to support growing organizations. This provides a great opportunity to those meant to enforce or utilize these documents to be reminded of what support exists.
Sometimes changes happen because of new tech or new thinking. If a procedure or checklist hasn’t been updated for five years and an employee departs, the next one may have a big job to understand the new ways or even what accountabilities exist for them. That’s a lot of wasted time and energy!
Bringing it home…
By now the reader should realize how we feel about documentation. Not only is it a necessary part of up-leveling your organization and a requirement of compliance but it creates an environment where people can do their work more efficiently and effectively. There is a reason that franchises are so successful. A methodology for success is discovered and can be replicated over and over. But this is also true for stand alone operations looking to have a competitive advantage.
The standards of which employees treat each other, their customers, and their products and services must have a baseline. If a customer has a different experience with every employee then expectations cannot be managed. Standard operating procedures create the opportunity for communicating these expectations to customers but also to team members of what is expected of them by their leaders and their fellow team members.
For more information on documentation start here.
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