I am often asked – “What is process documentation? Why should I be so concerned about it?” Well, process documentation is simply taking the necessary steps to ensure that the methods used for completing tasks are captured. One should be concerned about it because it leads to the ability to create consistent experiences for – internal customers (employees, vendors, etc.) and external customers – the paying customer. The actual documentation is the last step on the process documentation journey and is referred to as the Standard Operating Procedure.
Three Process Documentation Components
There are three basic steps in process documentation:
1. Identify Your Processes
2. Map and Analyze Your Processes
3. Create Standard Operating Procedures
Identify Your Processes
The first step in process documentation is to identify your processes. An easy way to accomplish this is to determine what tasks each role in your company is responsible for performing. I require my clients to create a role description for each role in the company listing the tasks the role performs. When one completes this task, one has identified the processes for that role. When one completes the task for every role in the company, one has identified the processes for every role. A bonus in doing this exercise is that one has also developed the training outline for the role which can be utilized when training personnel.
Map and Analyze Your Processes
The second step in process documentation is to map and analyze your processes. This is a critical step in process documentation, simply because you want to document the best process – not a bad process. A process mapping expert can prove to be invaluable in this step. Now I hear someone asking, “Why should I map my processes?” Process mapping allows one to create a visual of the process, thereby bringing the process to life. The maps must be detailed as they will be used in the standard operating procedure creation.
A process mapping expert will know what questions to ask to ensure the creation of a detailed map. I like to use questions learned in elementary school – Who? What? When? Where? How? and Why?
Here are typical questions raised in a process mapping session:
Who participates in the process?
Who needs to be notified when this step is completed?
What is the process trigger?
What information should be provided during the handoff?
What happens when the correct information is not included?
When does that step happen?
Where does the information come from?
How is this person made aware that they need to perform a task?
How do you track that you’re waiting for something to happen – approval, receipt of information, etc.?
How long will you wait for approval, receipt of information and what will you do if not received within the set timeframe?
Why is that information needed?
A key step to remember in mapping and analyzing one’s processes is to make sure one has the right people in the mapping session. Who should participate in the mapping session?
- The people performing the work in the process.
- The people who are impacted by the work performed in the process.
- The people who feed the process.
Including the people in the mapping session ensures that their perspectives are heard and considered – as they participate in the process on a regular basis. They know what triggers the process. They know why tasks are done a certain way. They know what is needed when the task is handed off to the next person in the process. Word to the wise – Make sure you have the right people in the mapping session. Not doing so creates the likelihood of key information being missed. One also runs the risk of damaging employee morale. Employees will ask – ‘Why wasn’t I included – I do this job (or am impacted by this job.) everyday!” Not the way to retain good employees!
Now I hear someone asking – “Which process shall I map and analyze first?” Here are a few things to consider:
- Pain points – What are the pain points in your operation? Why are customers complaining? Why are employees complaining in relation to operations? What processes are connected to these pain points and complaints?
- Revenue generators – What are the revenue related processes? What processes are connected to generating revenue? What processes are connected to receiving revenue.
- Business strategy goals – When developing business strategy, determine which processes are connected to the strategy.
Whichever process you choose to map and analyze first, remember – get the right people in the mapping session.
Create the Standard Operating Procedure
After conducting the mapping session, the next step on the process documentation journey is to create standard operating procedures. These procedures show one how to complete process tasks. I recommend using the map to identify what steps require task completion instructions. These steps are known as action steps as they usually contain action words such as “creates”, “uploads” “submits”, “notifies” or “activates” to name a few.
If the action box garners the question “How do you do that?”, then instructions for completing the task are more than likely needed. That’s why it’s important to create detailed maps – so that action steps are readily apparent. Remember – standard operating procedures are to be utilized when training personnel and must contain step by step instructions for completing tasks. There are multiple tools available for creating standard operating procedures. Trainual, Process Street and Whale are some of the more popular products on the market.
Process documentation is critical to long term business success. Follow the 3-step plan – Identify Your Processes, Map and Analyze Your Processes and Create Standard Operating Procedures. If you would like to learn more about this, contact us about a document your processes workshop, where you will learn the basics of process documentation and so much more! Both employees and customers will benefit from your commitment to process documentation!