From those of you who watched the Late Show with David Letterman, one of its popular segments was it's Top Ten lists. Those lists included almost anything imaginable. So, with that in mind and because we are regularly asked this question, why not include a list of the Top Ten Reasons why you need to document your processes?
Before we provide our list, let us ensure we all have the same definition of “process documentation.” Here is the definition we use at our company Aldridge Kerr.
Process documentation: summarize the steps necessary to successfully complete a specific task (or process).
With that definition in mind, here we go ladies and gentleman, our Top Ten List of reasons why you need process documentation:
10. Creates consistent, repeatable processes.
Lack of consistency is the number one problem we see when we work with our clients. This creates many challenges for a Company which include:
increased probability for errors
difficulty training new employees
communication break downs with customers, employees, and vendors
By documenting your processes, a company is resolving challenges created by inconsistent processes. The resulting consistent processes encourage an environment of repeatable processes. Having repeatable processes allows for sustainability, growth, and increased profitability.
9. Minimizes knowledge gaps.
Documenting your processes positions your business to move from tribal knowledge to institutional knowledge. Tribal knowledge is information that Employees know “in their heads” based on years of performing specific tasks. That knowledge can easily walk out the door if someone changes jobs, wins the lottery, gets sick, or has a horrible accident. During the current pandemic, companies are challenged with this obstacle because the Knowledge Expert is no longer down the hall and in many cases is now working remotely. Now, more than ever, processes need to be documented so the information is more easily available, and confusion of roles and responsibilities can be avoided.
8. Training and reference:
Effectively written process documentation can be used for a multitude of purposes, including training and reference. With so many employees working remotely, having access to defined, documented processes allow for the training of new employees to happen. It also functions as a ready reference for existing employees who are being asked to perform tasks they do not typically perform. By having processes documented, new employees gain insights about the company, and the documentation can be used to supplement training. In addition, with many getting sick, having routine tasks documented allows for a more seamless ability to support a company’s clients.
7. Provides insight into what is working well and what isn’t.
Amazingly, every process documentation project Aldridge Kerr has ever done has unearthed something that surprised company leadership. By looking at what is presently being done, inevitably, discoveries are made related to unneeded and/or no longer relevant steps. Also, during that review, it is often discovered that there are really great steps that are performed due to the initiative of employees that, if formalized and shared, reaps benefits to the organization on a much broader scale and have a significant impact on other company processes. Incorporating the input from those who perform specific tasks is very powerful. They intuitively know what works well and tasks that need changes.
6. Helps adhere to regulatory or compliance requirements.
Believe it or not, almost all industries have requirements related to documenting a company’s processes. For example, there is a compliance requirement that even small companies must document their processes if they want to do business with certain industries. So, very few are exempt if a company wants to sustain itself long term. As a company grows, these requirements become more relevant and allow for opportunities not previously realized.
5. Defines expectations on how a task should be performed.
Unfortunately, employees are regularly placed in situations where they are asked to perform tasks where expectations are unclear. A huge benefit of documenting your processes is that it clarifies expectations on how the task should be performed. This provides a baseline for expectations and key performance indicators. In addition, well-documented processes create opportunities for efficiencies that typically reap financial savings.
4. Positions a business for business interruption.
This is so relevant today. We have heard from many businesses who are really struggling with their employees working remotely. Conversely, those companies that had clearly defined and documented processes were able to effectively transition their employees to work remotely. Process documentation has a significant positive impact on the digital transformation efforts of a company.
3. Mitigates risks.
Whenever a company takes the time to assess their existing processes, it is not uncommon to identify tasks that result in potential risks. This can be due to lack of internal controls that create the probability of fraud or unauthorized systems access, inconsistencies, obsolete tasks, etc. Identifying those risks through an assessment of the processes is the first step in mitigation and the establishment of more effective internal controls. Risk mitigation leads to the protection of company knowledge and physical and/or financial assets resulting in long-term financial savings.
2. Clarifies any change.
Whenever a company makes the decision to change how they do business, whether it is acquiring a new system, product, process, service, or strategy, there will be implications to existing processes. Assessing the existing process and defining how it will change allows for clarification. Once understood, this new process should then be documented, tested, and implemented.
1. Positions a company for whatever is next: expansion and growth, merger or acquisition, restructure, etc.
In today’s ever-evolving and uncertain business environment, it is especially important to document your processes so that you are better positioned for whatever is next. Companies that have robust, documented processes have a much higher probability of staying in business during this time. Documenting your organization's processes positions your business as an industry leader and in many cases, allows it to move quicker than their competitors to increase their market share.
Every Company has process documentation needs. For some, you need to get started. For others, you simply need to refocus your efforts. Aldridge Kerr suggests these first steps to moving forward:
Determine those processes that are most critical to your Company’s success
Identify what “top 10” critical processes should be documented initially immediately and why
Establish a consistent method as to what will be documented and the format in which it will be presented
Roll up your sleeves or contact the experts at Aldridge Kerr to provide you with a plan to get started.
Aldridge Kerr helps you define your process documents needs in order to get started. Contact Charlene Aldridge at 972.447.9787 or CharleneAldridge@aldridgekerr.com to discuss how we can mitigate your process documentation risk and develop a roadmap of success.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Charlene Aldridge is the founder and President of Aldridge, Kerr and Associates. She has vast experience and extensive knowledge at all levels of various industries in operational excellence and efficiencies with over 18 years in the corporate world. When she's not helping companies sustain and grow by building an operational foundation through efficient, effective processes, she is involved in her community and church through volunteering, serving on boards, and providing pro-bono services. She also enjoys reading, travel, walking, cooking, and the arts. Reach out to Charlene: firstname.lastname@example.org.
ABOUT MASTERY PARTNERS
Mastery Partners, where our mission is to equip business owners to Maximize Business Value so they can transition their business on their terms. Our mission was born from the lessons we’ve learned from over 100 business transactions, which fuels our desire to share our experiences and wisdom so you can succeed. Want to chat more or think we can help you? Reach out at email@example.com or check out his book, Maximize Business Value, Begin with The Exit in Mind (2020).