Free Operations Manual Templates

By
Komal Ahuja
October 31, 2022
16
min read
Updated
February 13, 2024
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Want to kickstart your company operations? Here's how to get started. Look no further than this operational manual template.
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Introduction

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It's one thing to start a business; it's another to run it smoothly and scale it further. 

If you’re wondering what separates one from the other, here’s the short answer: strategically documenting business operations. 

On average, companies lose 21 percent of their total productivity daily because of poor documentation. Not documenting crucial information about workflows, roles and policies mean your employees will inevitably underperform — slowing down your growth prospects.

An operational manual template can turn the tables in your favor to ramp up efficiency, reduce errors and optimize the team’s functioning. 

Below you’ll find our start-to-finish guide on creating your own operations manual and a ready-made template to get rolling quickly.

What is an operations manual?

While every business has its unique take on this manual, you'll need some initial prep to create a document as detailed as an operations (or operational) manual. To simplify this prep, we've listed six essential elements to include in your operations manual outline:

  • Organizational chart.
  • Job descriptions. 
  • Business processes & policies.
  • Job aids.
  • Emergency procedures.
  • Contact details. 

1. Organizational chart

Include a graphic flowchart mapping your team's internal structure. This chart presents the hierarchy of roles and clarifies who reports to whom to streamline communication within all departments. Here's what an organizational chart looks like:

2. Job descriptions 

Briefly describe all the roles within your organization. Highlight the primary tasks for each position and add a list of valuable resources. This helps every employee understand their role in the broader scheme of things and optimize their inputs. 

3. Business processes & policies

The main segment of an operations manual template covers the company's processes and policies. Dedicate a detailed section to itemize the main SOPs and curate the policies. As a best practice, categorize these processes into departments for better usability. 

📌 Scribe top tip: Documenting business processes and policies is a cakewalk with Scribe. Scribe can convert any process into a step-by-step guide, then lets you combine each guide in a manual and let AI do the rest. ✨ Try Scribe's AI Writer for Operations Teams to capture all of your operational processes, fast.

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4. Job aids

Include meaningful job aids to make your operations manual a reliable resource for employees. Job aids can take many forms, like:

  • Checklists. 
  • Flowcharts.
  • One-pagers.
  • Templates.
  • Worksheets.
  • Instructions. 

Including training job aids in an additional step to deliver more value through the operations guide. 

📌 ‎Related resource: Procedures vs. Work Instructions — Learn how You Can Leverage Both for Your Organization

5. Emergency procedures

A good operations manual should define what to do when things go wrong—the emergency plan of action. It should outline the steps to take in case of a specific crisis and the people designated for solving an emergency. 

6. Contact details

An operations manual is incomplete without a complete record of every stakeholder’s contact information. It should include the contact details for all employees, vendors, clients and other business stakeholders. 

Free operations manual templates

Here's a free operations manual template that you can use for your team. In seconds, you can customize and personalize it to make it completely unique to your team.

Just duplicate the template, add in your own processes with Scribe and then let AI do the rest!

How to use this template with Scribe

Sign up for a free Scribe account. Then, you'll be able to duplicate and use this template. There are two ways to get started!

Let AI expand on your template

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100+ free templates

Scribe offers more than 100 templates for all of your process documentation — from SOPs to fully-fledged training manuals. Check out our free template gallery.

How to create an operational manual in 7 easy steps

If you’re ready to roll and design an operational manual template, we’ve listed the only seven steps you need to get cracking. 

  1. Decide the processes you want to document.
  2. Create a basic layout for your template.
  3. Define the key contributors to the document.
  4. Write, edit and refine your draft.
  5. Choose the platform to share the manual.
  6. Get feedback from the team and iterate.
  7. Roll out the finished version.

1. Decide the processes you want to document

For starters, you need to brainstorm and finalize the processes you should document. This initial legwork will make the next steps easier and smoother. 

Survey stakeholders at all levels to identify their main pain points. Use these points to narrow down the processes to include in your manual. This simple step will also help you decide the goals for creating such a document–to speed up the onboarding process or increase employee productivity. 

2. Create a basic layout for your template

Now that you know what processes you want to document and why, draw an operations manual outline. 

This layout will give you an overall idea of what the final output will look like. It allows you to finalize a logical flow and structure for the manual. Remember to include a list of specifics in each section, defining the topics and subtopics. That way, you can approach each section tactfully and not miss out on any detail. 

More importantly, a layout enables end readers to find specific information quickly. 

For example, this operations manual by the University of Iowa follows a proper outline listed in the table of contents. Anyone looking for details related to a specific section can directly jump to that part. 

3. Define the key contributors to the document

Before you jump down to write your manual, finalize the people involved in the documentation process. It’s always a good idea to define a content creation process and identify who’ll do what in this process. 

Ideally, creating an operations guide template will involve four roles:

  • Those who research about different roles and workflows to collect raw information.
  • Those who write down all the information systematically as per the guidelines. 
  • Those who review, verify and edit the information to approve the final draft. 
  • Those who maintain and update the manual to add or remove specific details. 

These roles can differ as per your documentation framework. Remember to designate each role to the right people before you start the work to make sure you're managing and securing process documentation.

4. Choose the platform to share the manual 

You have your operations guide outline. You have a team of people to prepare the document. You need the right platform to publish and share the manual. 

Most teams don't pay much attention to how they'll share their operations manual. So, it inevitably ends up in a Google Doc—a non-intuitive platform with limited features to create and share a complete operations manual. 

What you really need is a documentation app or knowledge sharing platform that:

  • Makes it a breeze for your team to collect, write and present all the information.
  • Offers an easily readable and shareable way for stakeholders to access this information. 

Thankfully, you don’t have to look far to find this magic tool. 

Scribe is your documentation builder to create a detailed operations manual without forcing your team to break their backs making it. It's super fast (15x faster, exactly) for documenting anything into interactive guides. Once done, you can share your Scribes as links, export them in multiple formats or embed them anywhere! 

The best part: you can create as many Scribes as you want and curate them in a single place with Pages. It’s the perfect recipe for a one-stop operations manual. 

📌 Related resource: Put Your Knowledge Management Process Into Practice for Real Results

5. Write, edit & refine your draft

Now it’s time to get to work and start writing your operations manual. Creating a set of clear guidelines is one of the most effective ways to maintain consistency and minimize rounds of revisions.

Here are a few things to remember when drafting and editing an operations manual sample:

  • Write for clarity: When writing for a broad audience, clear is always better than clever. Avoid jargon or complicated vocabulary to convey everything clearly. Write shorter sentences. Remember to cover only one idea per sentence. 
  • Make it scannable: Since the manual will include so many different sections, it's natural for readers to feel overwhelmed with information and turn it down. Keep the design scannable and light to avoid this and ensure your manual serves its purpose. 
  • Present actionable information: An operations manual is designed to help employees excel at their jobs. Everything you include in the manual should enable them to take the right action or perform a task.
  • Categorize information strategically: This is a no-brainer. But spend some extra time tying up loose ends to present every detail logically. Revisit your draft to check if any detail is out of flow or doesn't fit into the structure properly. 

This operations manual by Accenture presents a great example to inspire your draft. Notice how the document categorizes all information properly, itemizes it into bullet points, highlights key details in bold and italics and includes a scannable design. 

operations manual from Accenture: operations manual template
(Source: Accenture)

6. Get feedback from the team & iterate

Writing the operations manual is a job only half done. To ensure your manual is ready to deliver the value you want to present, ask your team to review it before the final launch. 

A quick feedback round will show you some aspects you might have missed. Connect with a representative from every department to cross-check department-specific details. Collect and analyze their feedback to identify any crucial changes. 

A best practice is having your legal advisors review the document to avoid any wrong implications of your business policies. 

7. Roll out the finished version

With that, your operational manual is ready for launch! Give the final draft a final check and share it with the entire team. Be sure to adjust the permission settings for accessing and editing different parts of the document. 

Once the template is in use, create a system for regularly updating and optimizing this document. Assign an owner for this task and designate the responsibility of regularly auditing and updating the template.

This individual will also be responsible for communicating these updates to all involved stakeholders.

Creating an operations manual template using Scribe

Scribe is a hassle-free tool to do all the heavy lifting for your operational planning process. Create your operations manual using this operational manual template in a few minutes. Or try Scribe's free operations manual generator to create your first manual in minutes!

Benefits of an operations manual

An operational manual compiles all the crucial information about a company into a single document. It typically covers details like:

  • Organizational chart.
  • Employee functions.
  • SOPs and workflows.
  • And more. 

This manual can help employees reduce errors, improve productivity, and speed up day-to-day processes. But that's not all. An operations manual can set your team up for long-term success and operational improvement by:

1. Training new employees without hiccups

New hire onboarding is a massive challenge for many companies. The onboarding process often takes up too much of your team's bandwidth to train the new hires and bring them up to speed with their responsibilities. 

What if there was a faster, hassle-free way to train new employees? The good news: there is

An operations manual would be an all-inclusive encyclopedia about the company for a new recruit. This exhaustive document will brief them about the specifics of their role while sharing other relevant details to help them ease into the team and put faces to their names. 

2. Giving easy access to crucial knowledge

Employees spend 30 percent of their workday searching for the correct details to complete a task. This data indicates how painfully time-consuming it can be for employees to access information when needed, eventually hurting their productivity. 

By centralizing all the knowledge related to the roles and workflows in your team, an operations manual can become an easy reference point to fall on. 

This manual simplifies finding information, reduces the scope of error and brings more consistency to employee inputs. 

📌 ‎Learn about top knowledge sharing best practices.

3. Keeping every stakeholder accountable

Lack of accountability is one of the biggest reasons why things go south in any business. Accountability takes a hit when your team is chasing unrealistic goals, working without a clear roadmap, dealing with a resource crunch or operating without clarity of roles. 

This is where an operational manual can change your approach for the better. With a well-defined operational plan, you can:

  • Document the team’s goals.
  • Chalk out an action plan.
  • Map your resources and bandwidth. 
  • Define responsibilities clearly. 

This manual can ramp up your stakeholders’ accountability and prevent any mistakes leading to failure.

4. Bringing more efficiency into workflows

Running your business like a well-oiled machine is almost impossible without documenting all the core operational processes. Your team is bound to lose direction and drop the ball—more frequently than you'd expect. 

Instead, you can prepare your employees to create repeatable success with a detailed operations manual. This manual includes an overview of all essential details to streamline your team’s functioning and bring more operational efficiency into every process. 

5. Increasing the scope of scaling processes

Scaling business operations management is no mean feat. It requires thorough research, planning and testing. But your strategy would fall flat if you don’t have the proper documentation to bring it into action. 

An operations manual empowers teams to build out their long-term plans on paper and create a library of resources to implement these plans. Think of it as your secret weapon to beat the bottlenecks in scaling your operations. 

Other factors to consider for making an O&M template

  1. Size of business: Smaller teams need an operations manual to effectively delegate work among each member without overwhelming any one member. Medium and large organizations can increase collaboration and reduce confusion with a manual.
  2. Employee turnover: If your team faces high turnover where employees leave in a short period, you need an operations manual to maintain business continuity. It'll help transfer explicit, tacit and tribal knowledge to the next person who takes over a role and speeds up employee training as well.
  3. Regulatory environment: Another critical parameter to consider is the kind of regulations you have to comply with. If you operate in a highly regulated industry, you need an operations manual to maximize compliance with these laws.
  4. Nature of work: Remote and distributed teams can achieve massive success with an O&M template. They can leverage this template to create SOPs for multiple workflows and set up error-free systems for every necessary task.
  5. Business expansion: If you're expanding or planning to expand your business to a different location or a bigger team size, an operations manual can streamline business processes and your expansion. It'll preserve your company's knowledge and workflows to get new recruits up to speed quickly.

All things considered, it's safe to conclude that an operations manual comes in handy for teams of all shapes and sizes. With a good O&M template, you can create these manuals quickly and accurately. So, let's look at how to make one!

📍Related resource: 15 Free Manual Templates for Every Business

Top 8 use cases of an operations manual template

Not sure if you should even invest so much time and effort creating an O&M template? We talked to multiple teams using an operations manual and curated this list of eight ways in which you can use an O&M template:

  1. Standardizing routine processes: Create SOPs within your operations manual to standardize daily tasks and maintain consistency in your team's work.
  2. New employee onboarding: Onboard employees with a streamlined process and make it a pleasant experience for new recruits. This can also be used for employee offboarding to part ways on a positive note.
  3. Performance evaluation: Evaluate individual and departmental performance against predefined parameters following a fixed workflow. Create a manual chalking out the evaluation process for employees at every level.
  4. Knowledge transfer: Define a workflow within your O&M manual to facilitate regular knowledge transfer between employees and departments. Create another workflow for handovers when employees leave.
  5. Employee training: Dedicate a part of your manual describing the process, timelines, goals, and methods for employee training. Standardize training sessions with these guidelines.
  6. Equipment usage: Write operations maintenance manuals to regulate the use and maintenance of different equipment. Enhance the operations of your machinery with proper usage and upkeep of each machine.
  7. Vendor selection: Lay down the step-by-step process for finding, selecting and working with vendors. This manual will serve as a single source of truth for all teams to work with external vendors in a uniform setup.
  8. Crisis response: Outline the steps for handling various crisis situations within your organization. You can include possible solutions and troubleshooting methods for overcoming every listed crisis.

💡Scribe top tip: You can also create an operational level agreement to keep your teams in sync across departments. Use our customizable operational level agreement template to quickly outline terms and expectations for cross-departmental collaboration.

Operations manual FAQs

1. What should an operations manual include?

An operations manual usually includes:

  • Organizational chart.
  • Job descriptions. 
  • Business processes & policies.
  • Job aids.
  • Emergency procedures.
  • Contact details.

2. How do you write an operational manual?

Here are the steps for writing an O&M manual:

  1. Decide the processes you want to document.
  2. Create a basic layout for your template.
  3. Define the key contributors to the document.
  4. Write, edit and refine your draft.
  5. Choose the platform to share the manual.
  6. Get feedback from the team and iterate.
  7. Roll out the finished version.
  8. Decide the processes you want to document

3. What is an operations manual template?

An operations manual template creates a layout for drafting an operations manual. This manual documents the workflows involved in an organization's day-to-day operations to streamline work between different teams/departments and maximize efficiency.

Get the best out of your team with an operations manual 

An operations manual prepares the groundwork for an organization's success in the long run. It's the single reference point for employees when they join the company or get stuck at any point. It also condenses your entire business model into a document to strategize big-picture goals. 

Creating an operational manual template has many benefits—a well-informed workforce, more consistent and optimized workflows, greater efficiency and seamless employee training, to name a few. 

Use this guide to create a fail-proof operational manual template and reap all these benefits for your business.

Want to build your operational manual in half the time? Try Scribe for free!

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