Documentation

How to Write an Operations Manual: Things to Consider

One of the best ways to improve efficiency and maintain a good pace of work within your unit is through a self-sufficient operations manual.

Introduction

With every business or workplace, irrespective of the size or nature of work, an established thumb rule remains the fact that you should have a fixed set of rules or instructions to maintain a good level of efficiency paired with smooth functionality.

A well-designed business operations manual helps a firm in multiple ways, including building good morale or a hierarchy. Here are a few exciting ways to approach your operations manual sample to ensure maximum efficiency.

What is an operations manual?

An operations manual is a virtual or paper-based system that thoroughly educates employees on how to perform their tasks at the workplace productively and safely.

On the other hand, a training manual is focussed on ‘training’ recruits; operations manuals aim to assist the workers throughout work. Every organization invariably adds an operations manual to its internal framework and documentation. 

In general terms, an operation manual provides the viewer with a basic outline of every process undertaken by the company. The knowledge of these processes is often crucial for the business to achieve objectives and to keep up with the overall responsibilities. For this reason, most leading companies often possess operations manuals dedicated to several aspects of work within the workspace.

The benefits of using an operations manual often depend significantly upon the acceptability and clarity of the manual, along with the areas it addresses. Here are a few essential aspects to help you with your operations manual outline.

Essential components that you shouldn’t miss

When focussing on how to create an operations manual, it is vital to have a checklist of all the essential components of your manual. Though your firm's focus areas can vary depending on the field of work or the scale, the basic framework of an operations manual would remain the same. The critical components of a default manual should include the following.

  1. Documented processes.
  2. Hierarchy of the company.
  3. Job descriptions.
  4. Safety instructions.
  5. Emergency guidelines.
  6. Important contacts.
  7. Company history and timeline.
  8. Products and services offered.
  9. Policies.
  10. Statements regarding position.

It is also crucial to understand that an operations manual is not considered an alternative or replacement for the classical training process.

Instead, they serve as assistive tools for previously trained people as a reference for better acclimatization and adaptation to the SOPs of their firm.

How to write an operations manual

Formulating a clear and comprehensive operations manual that is helpful for the workforce depends upon several factors, including content, intricacy, accessibility, and more.

For a completely self-sufficient operations manual, one has to put in significant time and effort. 

Since the operations manual has to include all the branches and teams shadowed under the company, devising the manual requires efficient teamwork and healthy collaboration of professionals across the firm's dimensions.

Here are a few simple steps to follow so you can take advantage of all vital parts of your manual. 

Process documentation

Since you will have to cover a wide range of processes and tasks undertaken by your firm, you must create a detailed overview of them.

One of the most effective and easiest ways to deal with this aspect is to use virtual tools like Scribe, which can help with visualization-based technical documentation

Visually oriented processes, like process maps, diagrams, and flowcharts, often communicate the idea more simply and precisely while not compromising on the content per se.

This makes it several times easier to understand, regardless of the level of expertise of the viewer. 

Business Policies

Almost every business in the market starts with a clear idea about its goals and objectives, along with its basic policies and principles. Hence, after forming a documented system of the processes, the next step is to try and fit these policies within the process.

The business policies serve as a baseline or a limit within which the decisions must be made, along with the goals about resources and the company's purposes.

As we discussed earlier, most focus aspects differ according to the company or business. However, an ideal operations manual should include the following for practical function.

  1. General rules on behavior and conduct of personnel.
  2. Internet and technological guidelines.
  3. Standard regulations regarding purchases, traveling, and other expenses.
  4. Legal issues.
  5. Compliance with government legislation.
  6. Work standards and safety.

3. Define roles and hierarchy

Only by establishing the position and power of every individual in the system can one devise effective means to guide and regulate them accordingly.

The best way to create a clear picture of your firm’s hierarchy is through an organizational chart, which would also define the relationship between different roles in the company.

One can incorporate additional functionality into the hierarchy chart by including the contact details simultaneously. This makes the pieces more practically helpful to the workers.

4. Clarify emergency response plans

It is crucial to include emergency guidelines within your operations manual. It should cover all the possible adversities and emergencies within your company.

The emergency instructions should cover all the dimensions of the issue, along with detailed steps to help your workers in time of need.

Framing the emergency guidelines must be done under the supervision of expert committee members while gathering input from specialized personnel in the HR and safety committee.

This adds to the benefits of having such a plan ready, as they are fully aware of the possible hazards and help you choose the best ways to address them.

Simultaneously, being fully prepared for such causes can help protect your firm, the employees, and the physical property from extensive damage.

5. Format and tools

After figuring out all the fundamental aspects of your business to include in your manual, you can predict the basic outline of choice. Currently, several sites and tools offer a wide variety of operation manual template options.

Often, these templates help you frame an excellent operational plan highlighting all your work's core concepts. 

Also, it is crucial to keep your manual interesting and informative simultaneously. Instead of loading it with paragraphs of lumpy texts, improve readability with diagrams, flowcharts, and appropriate paragraph breaks.

Make sure you have a well-organized layout and consistent design throughout the manual. Such properly arranged guides are often easier to read and maintain the reader's attention.

6. Ask for feedback

Once you have come up with the appropriate design and layout for your operations manual, it is recommended that you double-check the efficiency of your script with someone well-versed in the aspect. 

Apart from this, being directly involved with the activity, you should also consider the criticism of professionals from other branches and departments of your company.

Only with a wide array of feedback coming from different sectors would one be able to judge and rectify any possible flaws in the design and content of the manual. Ultimately, the manual aims to provide complete information about the processes to all groups of people concerned.

Why do you need an operations manual?

Starting from the initial goal or vision with which the company was formed till the current standing of your workspace, every operation is possible only with adherence to a set of pre-determined rules, with manuals and guides to provide a step-wise approach to any possible situation, every branch or team within the business benefits greatly. 

It creates a sense of security and becomes an easy way to maintain order and keep your processes in line.

Through extensive measures to keep track of process documentation, paired with your manual, you can easily keep your business up and running like a well-oiled machine, maintaining productivity at its best.

An operations manual can be exceedingly helpful in times of crisis. While determining what to include in the manual, experts often add clauses to help workers deal with adverse situations, depending on their work situation and occupation.

Either way, it serves as a safety net to rely on at times of emergency.

It is also easier to refer recruits to check for instructions in the manual in case of any doubt regarding the functioning of your unit.

Though an introductory tour or oral explanation might be inevitable, having such an alternative for clarification serves as an added perk. However, it is necessary to keep these manuals in a spot that is easily accessible. There are several new tools like Scribe, which can guide you through the processes of managing accessibility and ease of use.

Conclusion

A practical operations manual can go a long way, starting with making positive changes in the basic functioning of your workplace.

It would significantly impact the overall efficiency and profitability of the work done by the firm.

Hence, it is recommended by experts worldwide for all leading companies and businesses of all sizes to frame an elaborate and informative manual to provide the required assistance to its workforce under all circumstances.

Apart from this, with a good operations manual, employees cannot depend on manual aid in all situations and can simply refer to the manual.