Did you ever work for an employer where when you arrived for work on the first day you weren’t given any documentation relating to the job’s role and responsibilities? I did. On my first day on the job, I was told to just “take it easy” the first few days and deal with the work as it arises. Relying on the job description and job title for guidance, I performed my role as best I could and managed to stay with the company for two years. Perhaps no surprise, a few years after I left, the company went out of business.
The benefits of having documented procedures cannot be overstated. Among their many benefits, procedures make training of new employees easier. When new employees do not have procedures for their job, they invent the job’s procedures. And when that employee leaves, the next employee reinvents or layers their invention on top of pre-existing process. This leads to inefficiencies.
In addition to training, procedures provide a baseline for all continuous improvement activities in the organization. If you want to make improvements in a specific process, how do you know what to improve if you can’t specifically identify how the process should have been (or was) done in the first place?
Procedures are useful for documenting standardized work. Organizations that have and use procedures are ahead of those that don’t. If your organization does not have documented procedures, there is a 100 percent probability that your organization is inefficient. No procedures? No surprise then that you won’t be in business for long (or at the very least, you will never be as profitable as you could be otherwise).
As well as a baseline for continuous improvement and standardizing work, procedures enable problem solving. If an error is made in a process, you will be able to pinpoint specifically in the procedures where the error occurred and then correct that procedure so the problem does not reoccur. You won’t need to correct process “on the fly” or “wing it.”
Another benefit of procedures is the freedom they allow management to not micromanage. When management knows that standard operating procedures are in place for work processes, they do not need to stand over their employees’ shoulders watching how work is performed. Instead, they can focus on developing and working the company’s strategic vision all the while knowing that standard operations will get done consistently and effectively.
That’s all great, you say, but your company already has procedures and problems still seem to occur. Remember that procedures are living documents and will need to be updated from time-to-time. Look for tell-tale signs such as an increase in your company’s number of accidents, higher failure rates and costly returns, or if employees start to question “normal operations” and there is a higher incidence of employee sick leave due to stress and overwhelm. Notice also what your customers are complaining about. Any of these situations may be a clue that your procedures are due for a refresh.
And don’t forget: The most effective procedures are those developed by the people doing the work. They don’t necessarily have to write the procedures, but they certainly have to provide the input.