4 benefits of documenting how you work

On the Job

4 benefits of documenting how you work

The next time you want to make someone’s eyes glaze over, utter these three words:

Standard.

Operating.

Procedures.

Then watch them sigh and sag in their chair.

The purpose of this article is to turn your frown upside down and make you say “Yipee!” about process documentation. No, really. I’m totally serious.

Just go with me on this one, folks. Picture in your mind a business process that is absolutely critical to the success of an organization. We will call this process Snookleflaken.

Imagine if you worked in this imaginary organization and said any of the following things:

  • I’m the only one in the entire company who can Snookelflaken.
  • How can I fire this problem employee? She is the only one who can Snookelflaken!
  • Everybody Snookelflakens differently!
  • I don’t understand why it takes our team so long to Snookelflaken.

There would be a problem, right? Enter the need to develop – you guessed it – a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for Snookelflaken.

SOPs do not have to be overly complicated. Nor do most SOPs require the purchase of specialized software. A basic SOP includes: (1) what is done, (2) who is accountable for doing it, and (3) the timeline in which each step needs to be completed.

I often develop SOPs for clients. Despite the dread with which some people approach the task, in the end there are some surprising (and not so surprising) benefits.

The four benefits of developing Standard Operating Procedures:

  • You find inefficiencies in the current process. There is no better way to uncover the that’s-the-way-we’ve-always-done-its than to ask “Why?” when you read a process step such as: Staple the printout together three times in rapid succession.
  • Hiring and training future associates is SO much easier. Get your current SMEs (subject matter experts) to develop SOPs, and you’ll have new employees up to speed ASAP.
  • You create consistency where chaos may currently reign. Customers want to have a similar experience with your company over time and across people. Consistency is comfortable. There is little consistency without SOPs.
  • You get promoted. If you are absolutely indispensable in your current position (i.e., the only one who can Snookelflaken), then don’t expect advancement.

What is the Snookelflaken in your organization? Go and develop an SOP. Then, say…

“Yipee!”

VIDEO TIP

The success of Jason’s department depended on people that did not report to Jason – even external volunteers. How does he get people over whom he has little influence to do what he needs them do? In this video, Dr. Melissa Gratias describes how she advised her client to: (1) clearly communicate the mission, (2) provide tools to make work easier, and (3) measure, share, and celebrate success.

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