Three Reasons Not to Write a Procedure Manual

Apr 28, 2014, Written by webmin

business peopleThere are many reasons (excuses) not to develop a Procedure Manual for your small business.  Here are the top three that come to my mind:

  1. You don’t want your employees to all follow the same processes.
  2. When someone has a question about a procedure that is not done on a routine basis, you want the employee to interrupt the other employees to find out how to complete the task.
  3. When you hire a new employee, you want another employee or better yet yourself to explain and train the new employee on every single task and responsibility.

Yes, I am definitely being sarcastic here!  But here’s why…

I feel so strongly that each business no matter how large or how small should have at least some documented processes and procedures.

What are the advantages?

There are so many advantages to documenting routine tasks but here are just a few:

  1. When you hire a new employee, it can be used as a training tool to develop the employee.
  2. When employees have a question about a process, they have a tool to use to get their questions answered.  Furthermore, they can use it as a resource for things that they don’t do on a routine basis.  We all have those in our businesses.  Right?
  3. A Procedure Manual can be used as a guide for all employees to follow, which will help with efficiency and productivity by all employees following the same process.
  4. It can be used as a guide or reference to assist in developing employees during performance discussions.

Now with that said, I also live in the “real world” and know that it is much easier to say we need a procedure manual than it is to write one.  How do I know you ask….because I have written my fair share!

And yes, I think the process itself is boring.  However, I believe the end result is immeasurable and once you are done, it will become a resource you will feel like you just can’t live without!

That’s a few reasons to decide to complete a Procedure Manual, now…

Where in the world do you start?

Here are some very simple steps that you can begin right away to get started on documenting your processes:

Step 1:

The first step should be to develop a plan.  This is as simple as making a checklist of all the processes you want to document.  Next to each process, record an estimate of how much time you think it will take to document the process and who you think the best person to write the process will be.  This checklist will eventually become your table of contents.  Set a realistic targeted completion date.  Keep in mind most businesses have many processes.  I am not trying to wimp out here, but give yourself a decent amount of time to complete it knowing that you have many other responsibilities.  However, once you set the timeline, stick to it!

Step 2:

Assign documenting process steps to your employees asking them to complete the steps for their assigned process in an outline form.  Although it may seem easier to have the employee write out the complete process, I prefer to have only one person do that so that the writing style is consistent.

Step 3:

Write the steps to complete the process in a consistent format.  There are many ways to structure each process, but here is the one I have used most often:

  • Title of the Procedure
  • Purpose of the Procedure
  • The Procedure’s Scope (who/what is affected)
  • Definitions if needed for important terms
  • Include Samples or Computer Screen Shots if necessary
  • Make note of the Revision date at the end of the process

Step 4:

Once the process is documented to your satisfaction, give it to another employee to test.  Ask them to complete the process using the newly written document, record any discrepancies and return to you or the person you assign for correction.

Step 5:

Complete your manual by inserting page numbers, leaving blank pages every once in a while for future additions and a table of contents.

YAY!  Now that was not as hard as it sounded.  I believe the key is to attack the manual one step at a time using your checklist as a guide.  I like to begin the process of documentation with the processes that I think will take the longest to document.  Once those are done, the rest is smooth sailing!

If you need help brainstorming how to get started on your manual or if you just need someone to discuss best practices, call our office to schedule a 30 minute free session! We’d love to help you develop a procedure manual that boosts your business success!

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