A business process requires clarity, simplicity, and evolution to be successful in your company. Here are some tips to help you write and maintain better documents.
Be as clear and specific as possible when you are writing so that every step is obvious to anyone who is reading it.
Ever started working at a new company where they speak in acronyms that you don’t understand? It takes forever just to understand the language, let alone the actual process! Be sure to avoid this mistake when writing your process. Or, at least, include a reference of what those acronyms mean.
Ask a person, who is not involved, to read the business process. Obviously, you can’t ask a non-scientist to understand a scientific document, but find a scientist who isn’t involved in the process if technical language is a sticking point. If your reader can’t understand what to do, then you’ve missed the mark on clarity.
A business process isn’t written and documented for the person who is already doing it. It is written for people who are coming in new or for reference for people who don’t know specific details.
To that point, include things that you might take for granted. What software programs should be used? Is there a template you start with? Where are the file folders for that topic kept in the building? Should something even be printed and filed or is it stored digitally?
Be detailed. Walk through the entire process and note every little thing that you do along the way. Those details are what is going to make your expectations clear.
But, being detailed doesn’t mean a process should be complicated. If you find that people are consistently not following a specific part a process, it could be because it is too complicated.
When these issues arise, think of them as opportunities to streamline your business itself while you are simplifying your business process. When you examine these areas, you will sometimes find steps you can skip. You might find your employees have discovered a more efficient or effective way to do something that you had not thought of. You also might find that they didn’t understand the importance of why you needed it done the way you originally documented it.
Those types of situations give you a training or coaching opportunity. Whys can be put into a process for instances like this, but, usually, they are unnecessary.
Evolution of a Business Process
Lastly, read through your processes every year or so to make sure that something hasn’t changed. Businesses change. People come and go. Sometimes issues arise that make you eliminate or add to your process.
It is always a good idea not to write, “give it to Laura” in your documentation, but rather “give it to the receptionist.” But, even then, your receptionist position might be eliminated, or you might redefine Laura’s role. Reviewing the processes regularly will help you keep these details clear.
Whenever a quality issue occurs or a mistake happens, the prevention method should be added to the process. Processes are evolving, living and breathing documents that are affected by people’s judgment and the outside world. Reviewing them regularly will help you keep up with those changes.
Make sure that you are keeping your business processes clear, simple, and timely and you’ll be off to a great start!
Also published on Medium.