Process Documentation: the top 3 lessons we’ve learnt

process documentationWhen embarking on the mission of documenting a company’s processes, it’s not uncommon to end up in a dark place full of frustration and confusion. We thought we’d share some of the lessons we’ve learnt through our experience in helping businesses create optimised, process driven versions of their former selves.

Process documentation. It’s often daunting to know where to start. After all, a process is a set of tasks that often cross over functional divisions in the company. It calls for the involvement of multiple people, who all own various sections of the whole.

This cross functional ownership can create silos, where each owner or stakeholder in a process is doing things their own way. Gaps form in the way processes are mapped and documented. Each stakeholder, unless given guidance and a framework, will approach process documentation in the way that makes most sense to them; or worst case, not at all.

So how does a company extract all of the disparate pieces of the process documentation puzzle and start to make sense of them all? Here’s a few things that we find help stakeholders move on from the dark place and back into the light…

Give it the attention it deserves.

Without acknowledging the amount of work involved in documenting processes properly, it’s easy to get overwhelmed, or just not find time amongst the “business as usual”. Understanding that it is a big job, one that will require the involvement and buy-in of key people within the organisation, is a crucial first step to success.

Create a uniform vision.

Everyone must be on the same page in their understanding of what their processes look like end to end. This can be a surprising challenge when you consider that everyone has their own ideas about what a process is and how it should be written.  Whittling that down to a singular vision will make it much easier to achieve the desired result;

  • A central repository of processes that have been written by many different team members with a likeminded approach
  • Clarity on the design and structure of the overall process documentation system and how it will tie individual steps in processes together
  • Understanding the desired layout, language and requirements of procedure and policy documents within the system

Zoom out, then zoom in.

When the decision has been made to become process driven, it’s tempting to just start knocking out procedures one by one and saving them as you would any other documents; wherever you as the stakeholder think it should live.

Becoming process driven is not about simply having procedures written down. It’s a cultural shift. It’s about documenting processes as they should be, not necessarily as they are. It requires zooming out and looking at the entire picture, before zooming back in to focus on individual steps in the sort of detail required to document them.

Getting all key stakeholders in a room early on is essential. Give them an opportunity to spend time diagnosing and mapping how things are done at a high level. Understand the relationships and dependencies between steps in a process.

This is a fantastic opportunity to explore what could be streamlined and ways that the process could be improved. Once this helicopter view of a company’s processes has been mapped out, zoom back in and focus on documenting each individual step systematically, linking them together so that the overall picture remains intact.

A process driven culture allows a company to explore some very interesting ways of gaining competitive advantage, in particular things like automation and offshoring low value busy-work. It can be really useful to engage an outside expert to help guide some of the high level discussions with stakeholders and even to assist with the grunt work of designing the system and writing the processes.

If you’d like to get serious about planning your methodology for process documentation, automation and improving the productivity of your key people, Freshmethod can help. Give our team a call today on 1300 766 554.

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