Easy steps to document your business processes

Documenting your business processes is the critical first step for two vital requirements of growing a business:

1) It takes the risk out of delegation – everyone knows exactly what’s expected, by when, by whom, what ‘it’ looks like, who/what/how success is monitored, measured and reported.

2) It sets you up at the very start with the end in mind – at some point, you will be turning your business over to someone else, and it needs to run flawlessly without you. Documented business processes are the key that enable executive turnover.

Goal: Any new hire, fresh off the streets, can come in and execute this process, successfully, by following the process as documented.

Objective: Document in such a way that your processes are easy, clean, simple and understandable by the lowest possible level person in your company (allowing you to delegate downwards with confidence).

Format: “Job Aid” format – think ATM machine. Anyone can walk up to an ATM machine, read/see pictures on the screen, understand what to do next, do it and get presented with the next thing to do. No advance learning or training needed – just follow the screen directions (i.e. ‘process steps’) and you’ll be successful. This is your goal with the format of your process steps.

Who/How:

  1. Do not have people who do the process, document the process. They are too close to the work, and the resulting process will either be too simple or overwhelmingly detailed.
  2. Have someone else –a  peer, you, an outside consultant – interview the person who does ‘x’ job/work and draft bullets plus a picture or flowchart of the work.
  3. Use pictures, insert drawings, charts, sample work documents, screen shots, report images, photos of person doing ‘y’ task … any visuals, along with text bullets, that ‘show’ what it looks like to be executing that particular process.
  4. Create the first draft of the process flow quickly. It will change, so don’t sweat it.
  5. Have the interviewer review the first draft with the person they interviewed to ensure accuracy.
  6. Repeat the interview, draft, review cycle as many times as needed, involving others in the review steps  to make sure ‘outsiders’ can also understand the emerging process docs. Do this until you feel confident.

Recognize processes change over time – especially in a new business – and thus, process documents need to be updated over time. Use the same methods as above for these ‘process improvements’.

Barbara Pratt is a talented, respected trainer, author, speaker, problem-solver, workshop facilitator and company founder. With more than 25 years experience helping Fortune 1000 companies achieve multi-million dollar project results, she has proven herself to be a skilled “in the trenches” troubleshooter. Learn more about Barbara at http://projectleadershipgold.com/.