The other day I got to be a hero at work. I was praised in front of everyone. My colleagues patted me on the back. Everyone celebrated this thing that I had done without ever having been asked.
I bet you can’t guess what I did. Well, I’ll tell you . . .
I documented my processes!
Wait. Why are you groaning?
Yes, I’ll admit it doesn’t sound particularly glamorous, but the truth is that documenting your processes at work is an extremely valuable task that all employees can do to help their company. And documenting your processes is something only you can do, since you are the only person with enough inside information to do the job thoroughly and well. Plus it helps you, too. Still not convinced? Let me give you a few reasons why you should consider it.
- Documenting your processes ensures the company can run smoothly when you are out of the office. Since I handle the financial side of the business, I felt it was important to have my processes well-documented for times when I was away for business, vacation or illness. After all, people still expect to get paid while I’m relaxing at Lake Whitney in Texas, right? And while it may be tempting to keep all your little nuggets of gold to yourself so that you can feel extra-valuable to the company, it can backfire on you when you’re in the middle of a serious fishing trip and it’s ruined by a myriad of phone calls asking how to do something. (Not speaking from experience.)
- Documenting your processes gives you peace of mind. If you do have to take a significant amount of time off, having well-outlined processes in place that your colleagues can handle will allow you to focus on the reason you took the time off in the first place. Whether you are taking care of a new baby, a sick family member, or just enjoying a well-deserved multi-day vacation, all your attention can go to the task at hand without worries about whether or not something is getting done properly (or at all) in your absence.
- Documenting your processes helps you improve those processes. When you document your processes, you may discover that a task is taking you a lot longer to complete than you thought. (This time I am speaking from experience). And little areas that can use improvements jump out at you. For example, you may discover that if you change the order of steps in a procedure, you could save time and energy. Maybe there is something you can automate. Maybe an outdated piece of software is affecting your efficiency. Acting on these discoveries can help you do your job even better.
- Documenting your process blows your boss’s mind. Seriously, you would think I’d saved a co-worker from a plummeting elevator. In all honesty, though, for small-to-medium-sized companies, individual employee initiative plays a huge part in growth and success. When you go above and beyond to help the organization, it is appreciated.
Tips for documenting processes
Documenting my processes wasn’t hard. As I worked on a particular task, I simply jotted down notes about what I was doing at the same time. The next time I did the same task, I referred to my notes and tweaked them if I found any inconsistencies. Once I was sure that my documentation was accurate, I formalized the process document.
Here are some best practices for process documentation that I found helpful:
- Give the process a title and a short description.
- Explain why the process is important
- Detail what software is being used.
- Share where the necessary logins and passwords can be found.
- Use lists and bullet points for easy reading
- Use flowcharts to illustrate workflows. Also, copy/paste those flowcharts from process to process to save time.
- Include screenshots where applicable.
- Track your time. Timekeeping lets the reader know how long they can expect to spend on the task so they can plan accordingly.
- It helps to have a common template across the company. At Solarity we’re in the middle of implementing this now. If you are documenting on your own, I will warn you that a search for templates can be quite daunting as many of them are designed for large, complex processes. You may be better off to just open up your word processor or spreadsheet program and design something clean and simple that works for you. This article by Forbes magazine offers even more strategies.
Now that you have some great reasons, tips and tools for documenting your processes, what are you waiting for? Tap into your inner superhero and make it happen.
About the author
Sarah Sechrist joined to Solarity in 2012 as the Accounting and Office Manager. She was immediately drawn to the project management world and loves the atmosphere at Solarity. Sarah is known for getting things done and is passionate about our company. She ultimately helps Solarity keep all of our projects organized internally. Sarah currently serves at the Treasurer for the International Institute of Business Analysis, Bluegrass Chapter and actively shares her skills by volunteering with her church.
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Our mission is to help people, organizations, and communities THRIVE! Our broad range of experience and knowledge in a range of different industries allows us to customize our approach to fit the situation. We work in total partnership with our clients to understand their business needs and the current environment, and then match the right amount of process to meet the culture and the project.