Knowledge Management

How to Make a Step-by-Step Guide in (You Guessed It) Just a Few Steps

You've gathered your SME's and laid out a process. Now, what's the best way to get it all on paper? Here are some quick and easy steps on how to make step-by-step guides — for any process.

Introduction

Businesses get more complicated as they expand. There are more stages, people and objects you need to arrange effectively.  

Occasionally, your consumers and employees want to know something without digging through complex systems or having to hunt down an SME. This is where step-by-step guides come in handy.

A step-by-step guide provides employees with helpful information they can actually use in a digestible manner. 

What is a step-by-step guide?

As the name suggests, a step-by-step guide lays down the steps necessary to execute a task. Companies and other organizations use it to demonstrate how to carry out projects. 

Anyone assigned a new workflow should be able to consult this guide for clear and straightforward instructions. 

Guides can be short and to the point or combined into fully-fledged manuals to explain any procedure. You might use a guide to standardize project documentation, outline support call scripts, onboard a new employee or simply make a purchase. 

The importance of making step-by-step guides

Simply put, you need a step-by-step guide if you want your employees to know how things are done the first time around. 

They offer extensive and precise information, eliminating any need for guesswork and saving time cleaning up mistakes. 

Specifically, we make step-by-step guides to accomplish 12 goals:

1. Enhance workflows.

Detect potential inefficiencies and bottlenecks early on. It won't take long to figure out which parts of your workflow you can streamline or do away with altogether.

2. Support employee training.

Help new workers understand their duties and familiarize themselves with your procedures. When in doubt, even the most experienced personnel can use these documents to double-check their work. Guides facilitate increased productivity and contentment among employees.

3. Preserve company best practices.

Too often only a select few people know how to run things. When you know how to make step-by-step guides, you can effectively train your teams and onboard newcomers. The most consistent teams only work when everyone is on the same page. 

4. Reduce human error.

Everybody makes mistakes, but clear instructions are a great way to avoid them. 

5. Use your time efficiently.

Increase your productivity and effectiveness tenfold by minimizing interruptions and preventing mistakes.

6. Reduce risk.  

Preserve operational consistency and socialize best practices.

7. Enhance performance.

Ensure the best case scenario every time. Guides can help you identify and curate the optimal circumstances for cooperation and performance. 

8. Maintain process integrity.

Meticulously recorded methods are an essential component of both patents and trade secrets.

9. Make easy updates.

As steps or tools change, the right process or tool can help you quickly and effectively alter documents. 

10. Improve quality.

Standardization gives you room to test and enhance procedures for better quality, faster processes or an overall improved result.

11. Outsource efforts.

Easily onboard vendors with sufficient documentation and an organized knowledge base

12. Automate operations.

Expand your digital horizons by easily integrating tools with your step-by-step guides. 

How to make a step-by-step guide

If you're looking for a straightforward and standardized way to document tasks and processes… you've come to the right place. Here’s a brief outline with details to include in each guide. Let’s get started. 

Step 1. Briefly describe what you're trying to accomplish with a procedure or task.

Only a small amount of copy is needed here. Simple labels and a brief explanation of the target goal or metrics are sufficient to convey your message. 

  • Describe the task.
  • Identify how to address it.
  • Why the step-by-step guide is required

Step 2. Work out a plan of action and define the scope of work.

Describe and outline the big picture. It's not uncommon for processes to share components with other activities. Make it clear what and who is involved.  

Step 3. Explain the inputs and outputs. 

Every task or process has two components: 

Input: A trigger event that sets things in motion. Make a list of the resources needed to complete each process phase.

Output: The results, whether or not they are observable. Determine what the end outcome of the procedure will be or what the end product will be.

To fully explain each phase of the process, first define their components. Identify the starting point and outcome. We’ll work our way through the middle later. 

These details are critical to creating a detailed step-by-step guide, so don't overlook them.

A guide for dealing with consumer complaints, for example, would use the complaint itself as a source of information. The result would be a satisfied consumer and a fixed problem.

Step 4. Write down each step in the guide.

Now that you’ve finished your prep, it’s time to document the process. Defining what a person needs to do to get the desired outcome. 

Gather all the details of the procedure from beginning to end. The brainstorming session should include individuals directly involved in the process duties or someone who understands it considerably.

At this point, you don't need to bother about the order of things. Just document every step of the procedure, from start to finish.

Step 5: Sequence the actions.

Prioritize what steps to include and how to outline main tasks vs. subtasks, as well as urgency or priority levels. 

Step 6: Explain who is involved.

Identify each person (or group) who will be accountable for completing a step in the process. Indicate the position and function of the role. 

You can also include names, but be mindful to update as employees change roles or leave. Be as clear in your language as possible. 

Step 7: Outline the process.

Standardize what happens and when. You may even draw a flowchart to articulate your process flow clearly. 

Step 8: Make a list of deviations.

For whatever reason, there might be variations to the rule. Explain what the deviations are, why they happen and how to prevent or work with them. 

Step 9: Add measurements and controls.

Add control points to monitor the process by identifying potential risk areas and implementing countermeasures.

Measure the efficacy of the process and use the results to enhance it.

Step 10: Inspect and verify. 

Confirm with your SMEs that nothing is missing. Do any steps need to be added? Ask yourself if everything is in its proper place.

Step 11: Describe how to accomplish each step.

Include supplementary instructions for someone going through the procedure. Include images whenever possible.

Step 12: Take advantage of helpful tools. 

Scribe automatically turns any digital process into a step-by-step guide. Simply click record then run through your workflow. Scribe captures your screen to auto-generate an SOP, complete with text and screenshots. 

Any action you do in your browser is tracked and recorded. SME’s can document how things are done while getting them done. 

Edit the text and screenshots, then add tips, alerts and more. Your final Scribe can be shared with a link or embedded into your knowledge base. 

Check out the Scribe gallery to see ready-to-share guides supporting tools like ZoomInfo, Salesforce and Slack. 

Step-by-step guide best practices 

  • Keep it brief and use clear language. 
  • Develop internal and external- (client) facing materials.
  • Create a procedure for standard updates as processes evolve. Schedule quarterly or annual audits to monitor changes. 
  • Designate a process owner to conduct frequent evaluations and inform others of important modifications. 
  • Create a separate guide for each distinct process. Combine processes within the same project in a database, folder or another tool
  • Start small. If you’re recording the instructions for the first time, work your way up to the most complex processes. 
  • Centralize and socialize guides so that everyone knows where they are and when to use them. 
  • Make it easy to amend and share guides when changes happen. 
  • Avoid chunks of text that are too long or dense. Use screenshots with markup, symbols and more to get your point across. 
  • Standardize the format and structure of your guides. 
  • When relevant, include a process flowchart to demonstrate the flow of work.
  • Use swimlanes to separate distinct process roles, deadlines and so on.
  • Leveraging existing documentation (such as records and interviews) and connect with SMEs before creating your guide. 

Create amazing step-by-step guides with Scribe.

Quickly and easily explain even the most complex processes. 

Scribe makes it simple to build step-by-step guides that are informative, interesting… and easy on the eyes! Scribes develop text and screenshots for you, so that all you need to do is refine and review. 

Update text, annotate your screenshots, redact private information and even add additional branding. 

You'll save at least 20 hours in documenting and sharing guides. Get started for free.