I think we have all had experience of the dreaded procedure manual, a mile thick that no one looks at but that is NOT what I mean. If it is not simple it won’t work. It will just sit on the shelf and gather dust and the forms and checklists will be ignored because you are too busy to be bothered. If office procedures are not a help and they don’t reduce your workload or prevent problems then why have them?
3 key steps
1 Planning – Know what you actually do
The first step needs to be – know what you actually do. It sounds so obvious but unfortunately a lot of what people do is off the cuff and automatic. When you employ someone their automatic is often different from your which can cause issues or worse, leave gaps.
You need a list of every activity in your business, right down to the things you think do not matter
Mindmapping can be a helpful tool for business planning because it is a more natural way of thinking and uses both sides of the brain. When you only list all you do, you may miss some things because you are only using your logical left side and getting half a brain worth.
And while you are doing this why not look at your carbon footprint and safety procedures at the same time? Both of these can save you a lot of money. Reducing your carbon footprint will reduce your energy bills and because it reduces other waste will save more there. Failure to be aware of safety hazards can make you liable for huge fines if anything unfortunate did happen. Both are worth including in your plan.
2 Critical resources needed to make life easier?
Now you have your list you need to go though it to see what is critical. If you or your assistant were to be unable to come to work or to tell anyone else how to do their job would your business survive? This is the “fall under a bus” test. For every activity, apply this test to see if it is critical.
If you have decided the information is critical, how much is? You do not want to building a paper mountain because no one will look at it.
You need to decide whether procedures are really what you need or whether a detailed “use once for induction” training plan is better with just a brief reminder where the job is actually done. You may decide you need a training schedule if training is important – that is just a simple spreadsheet or reminders in outlook. If you need to maintain equipment setting up the same sort of reminders is another useful procedure. You also need to include forms and checklists here but only have the once you really need.
3 Control them
How do you keep your procedures etc up to date and controlled? Procedures have a bad habit of growing and multiplying. Some people keep their own copy in their drawer and it gets out of date but they stick to the old way. Others know they can do better and sit down and write long winded procedures that you know nothing about
Be careful. Procedures, checklists and forms can easily go “feral” and result in chaos. They are actually easy to control but it means have everything dated and listed if it is printed form or in a read only form if you have them on a computer. Only one person should be authorised to make any changes although others can suggest changes if they really feel they have though of an improvement. The one person then updates the procedure or form, makes it read only again and makes sure no one has old ones in their desk.
Successful business includes writing procedures but please keep it simple. If it is not simple it will not work.