Business has undergone major changes in the past 12 to 18 months in order to fend off the effects of the recession and to stay relevant and growing through difficult times. One of the unfortunate impacts of the change has been shifting and reducing staff levels to save money and remain competitive.
Companies risk losing critical “tribal knowledge” with any kind of staffing change or reduction. It is all too common for critical process knowledge to remain only in employees’ heads as they walk out the door. Consequently, companies quickly find themselves in a situation where only one person in the department or on the line knows how to complete critical tasks. These tasks may only be done once every two weeks or every other month. But that one person has to be available or the entire workflow gets bogged down, making it difficult to allow that key employee to take any vacation time. Process documentation makes it possible to avoid this single point of failure.
In addition, companies are trying to keep the cost of remaining workers down while maintaining the highest level of quality in order to retain customers.
One manufacturing company in southern California realized that the various languages being spoken in their plant and lack of consistent experience was impacting quality of their high end products. The company quickly decided that one of the best ways to balance the cost of their workers with maintaining quality was to have less variation in their manufacturing process through clear process documentation in different languages.
Done right, process documentation gives you reliability and accountability in any market conditions. Plus, it empowers workers to double check their results, as well as to learn and grow, especially on the occasional tasks.
Process documentation encompasses everything from a "How-to Manual" for data center operations to developing documentation for complex engineering procedures and manufacturing processes. This may involve ground-up development if there is no existing documentation. In other cases, the focus is on consolidating, verifying and streamlining a plethora of "documentation pieces".
Two overarching goals are driving the need to develop and improve process documentation:
It can be the right solution for your immediate and long-term needs based on the following:
It is critical to communicate the goals and benefits: reducing errors and making it possible to more efficiently add staff, etc. when you undertake a process documentation project. Proper communication can quell unrest among employees and avoid the common misperception that the process of developing such documentation is a precursor for layoffs.
Experts agree that a good starting point is to first determine how much you really need to document, what processes need to be included, what languages are involved and who the true experts are in your organization.
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