Do This To Keep Your Business Running Smoothly During Change

Documentation is a love letter that you write to your future self.” – Damian Conway

A practice in business that is often extremely important but is so often overlooked or moved to the back of the mind for a “rainy day” is documenting processes within a business.

There are many benefits to documenting your business’s Standard Operating Procedures (SOP), but it requires an initial investment in time and focus to put the Procedures together and store them correctly for easy retrieval and future use.

SOP and documentation of these processes should be looked at as required maintenance for the business in the same way that you need to maintain your car or your home. Without regular tune-ups, you’re hurting the longevity of your (business) vehicle.

Sure, you don’t have to change the oil on your car, but when your engine overheats it’ll cost you a whole lot more time and money to fix it than if you had spent an hour every 5,000 miles.

Same thing with changing the filters of your HVAC system every month. It’s a boring task that’s easy to ignore, but when your motor blows out from working harder than it had to in that nice summer sun, both you and your wallet will be in meltdown mode.

SOP’s can and should be viewed as your business’s maintenance program. Like a fitness routine, your SOPs should be refreshed on a regular basis to ensure that all procedures are up to date.

Why is this “trivial task” so important?

   1. Tribal Knowledge

You know the whole ‘If Bob gets hit by a bus, we’ve screwed’ scenario? It’s because Bob’s head is a treasure chest of info that nobody bothered to write down. If Bob takes an extended vacation or wins the lottery, there goes all that knowledge. Takes forever to piece it together again.

Without having the information recorded, when someone from your organization leaves or tragedy strikes, that information disappears.

And some folks say, ‘But, but… Bob’s too important to take time off for this!’

Solution: Grab a colleague, have ‘em shadow Bob, and jot down all that golden knowledge. Bob can check it later for any tweaks.

   2. Executive Time

Remember your busted car? If a car engine overheats due to oil not being changed or maintained properly, you don’t have a mechanic freshly minted in the shop work on your vehicle. The new guy would’ve been capable of doing a routine oil change, but do you trust them to diagnose and fix your engine? Doubtful. Same goes with the HVAC unit of your house. The plumber or HVAC specialist that knows what they’re doing is going to be responsible for removing your burnt-out AC unit and installing a new one.

Here’s the deal – if you’ve got no records and you lose a source of knowledge, it’s a mystery to recover it.. It’ll take an executive who knows the business unit inside and out to go in and spend time documenting the processes, or you will need to hire an outside consultant to document processes.

It’s much more cost-effective to have it done on a routine basis, rather than after the fact.

   3. Accountability

If there is no record of how individuals are supposed to do their job, what are you going to hold them accountable to? How can you expect somebody to play properly when you can’t even show them the rules of the game?

Without SOPs, it becomes impossible to require employees to do anything besides show up. You can tell them what to do but what reference point do you have to point to, indicating this is how we want this done. You need a “this is how we do things” guide to point to.

   4. Automate it

When a process is documented, the hard part of automating the task is done. Now that the process is detailed out you can determine what specific pieces of the information can be automated and which parts of the process needs a human touch.

After this, it is time to find a way to automate it. There are numerous solutions on the market to do this. Our personal pick is Wrk based on its ability to have a human touch within the automation loop to ensure the task keeps moving forward.

   5. Inspect what you expect

Having SOPs and a plan in place to check them on a semi or yearly basis provides checkpoints for your organization to inspect what you expect out of each. Think of these check-ins as a wellness retreat for your business. These checkpoints are great times to iterate your current processes, look at additional solutions in the market place and understand if the current way you are doing it is the most effective and efficient way possible.

Having a cadence to consistently inspect what you expect is a great way to consistently be looking at different methods from different angles and allow for innovative ideas and solutions to bubble to the top.

Standard Operating Procedures are the bran flakes of the business world. You’re not throwing a party for them. But man, when the storm hits, these boring necessities turn into your life support, keeping the gears from grinding to a halt in times of change and madness.

Don’t be the organization that is caught unprepared. Be the organization that is organized and prepared for whatever.

Let’s get to work.