Operations Manual: What It Is & How to Write It (+ Free Templates)

Juliet Luciol
November 28, 2022
min read
March 12, 2024
Photo credit
Learn how to write an operations manual tailored to your business needs in 6 easy steps. Get free manual templates and expert tips on writing an effective operations manual.
Generate Process Docs Free!


Established rules and guidelines are crucial for any business, no matter your size or revenue.

An effective operations manual has the power to boost morale, create a clear hierarchy and enable your team to perform.

An operations manual is a document that outlines the specific procedures a business needs to follow to run smoothly.

This can include standard operating guidelines from handling customer inquiries to every aspect of day-to-day tasks in your company’s operations, including responsibilities, procedures and processes. Operations manuals are essential to any business' operational strategy, as they provide employees with instructions on how to do their jobs.

Here are some tips for creating an efficient operations manual.

TL;DR: Operations manual

  • An operations manual is a digital or paper document outlining procedures for a business to run smoothly.
  • It includes company history, roles, business policy, products, and more.
  • How to write an operations manual: defining purpose, creating structure, gathering content, writing, feedback, and publishing.
  • Operation manual benefits include employee training, consistency, and improved efficiency.

What is an operations manual?

An operations manual provides employees with information about how to do their jobs. Well-outlined operations manuals ensure that all employees are on the same page and that everyone knows their specific role in keeping the company running.

Business operation manuals can be created for many different reasons. Operations documentation outlines:

Organizations with an operational plan should write a manual. It's an incredibly useful tool for Ops teams and new business owners trying to get everything up and running. 

What goes into an operations manual?

Business operation manuals are often common in B2B industries like:

  • Healthcare.
  • Construction.
  • Transportation.
  • Real estate.

It's a standard part of the business playbook that clarifies essential areas of the company’s operations.

The best thing about an operations manual is that you can customize it to fit the specific needs of your business. So, whether you're running a small mom-and-pop shop or a major organization, this documentation can help you run your business operations more effectively.

In general, an operational manual will outline the following:

  • History, vision and mission statement.
  • Company organizational structure.
  • Roles and responsibilities of each member of the team.
  • Business policies and procedures.
  • Products or services.
  • Safety instructions.
  • Emergency procedures.
  • Important contact details.

How to write an operations manual: A step-by-step guide

The operations manual is a key part of any organization's infrastructure. It keeps everything running smoothly, so it's important to ensure that yours is an effective one.

To write a useful operations manual for employees, focus on:

  • The most relevant information.
  • Easy accessibility.
  • Ample resources.

This isn't a solo job; constructing a fully self-sustaining manual requires dedication, efficient teamwork and collaboration throughout your organization.

Here's a step-by-step guide on how to manage your operations manual.

Step 1. Define the purpose of your operations manual

When writing an operations manual, you never want to be too vague or detailed. You need to find a happy medium.


If you're too detailed, your employees might be overwhelmed with information they don't need. And if you have gaps in your company's policies and procedures, they'll likely lead to errors and inconsistencies.

Your operations manual should strike the right balance between being clear and detailed while still being practical and easily understood by everyone on the team. Here are the key questions to ask:

  • What is the purpose of an operations manual?
  • What are the benefits of having one?
  • How can you use operations to improve your organization?

Step 2. Create a structure for your operations manual

When you build a basic structure for your operations manual, it helps to think about the purpose of this document. For example:

  • Is the target audience users or workers?
  • Will it be used as internal documentation or shared with other departments?
  • What kind of content do I need, like runbooks for the dev team, infographics for marketing, or adigital operations framework?

💡 ‎‎Learn more about how IT operations management can maximize operational efficiency.

Step 3. Gather content for your operations manual

Gather the information you need to create your operations manual. You can begin by using a template as a starting point for your operations manual. An operational manual template will make your workflows more effective without burdening operations teams with documentation writing.

An effective operation manual template will help you create standard processes everyone can follow. It also keeps all your SOPs consistent — regardless of who and when has built them.

Build a flowchart for your organizational hierarchy to make it easy to understand. Visually oriented processes, like process mapping, workflow diagrams, and flowcharts, help communicate ideas simply and precisely.

Since you'll have to cover a wide range of business processes and tasks, one of the most effective and easiest ways is to use AI-powered process documentation tools like Scribe to document processes and procedures. 

‎Scribe captures your screen as you work, auto-generating visual step-by-step instructions in seconds — complete with text and annotated screenshots.

Here's a Scribe on how to wrap text in Google Sheets (that only took 7 seconds to make!):

Scribe step-by-step guide showing how to wrap text in Google Sheets
How to wrap text in Google Sheets

Your team can use Scribe to document processes and procedures, and quickly and easily create a content library for your operations manual.

Don't just take our word for it — Josie Kritter shares how operations teams use Scribe to save countless hours:

"I was spending hours in my operations role documenting long and complicated digital processes. Due to the manual nature, it was very common for steps to be missed. Scribe has totally solved this issue. The software makes it so easy to record and document processes, without a step being missed. I'm winning back multiple hours a week and the guides look so much better than our previous SOP template."

Step 4. Write your operations manual

Scribe: operations manual

‎The first step in writing your operations manual is to create an outline. Start by brainstorming every topic and function of your business to develop ideas for each section.

Next, organize them into categories based on their importance or relevance to the business's overall goals and objectives.

Use a step-by-step guide template with instructions on performing repetitive procedures.

Then use Scribe Pages to write your manual for you. Scribe pairs generative text with your company-specific processes — just type a prompt and select the Scribes you want to include in order.

Use Scribe

Scribe makes the creation process fast — automatically write any type of process document: SOPs, employee onboarding guides, training manuals, and more in minutes. Plus, you can include a complete table of contents with a single click!

Step 5. Ask for feedback

Once you've come up with the appropriate design and layout for your business operation manual, review and refine your operational efficiency with your company's go-to person.

It's important to get feedback from relevant stakeholders to fix any issues in the manual. You can also create an operational-level agreement to keep your teams in sync for efficient and effective service delivery.

💡Scribe tip: Try our pre-built operational-level agreement template to quickly outline terms and expectations for cross-departmental collaboration.

Keep track of process documentation; paired with your manual, you can easily maintain productivity and streamline business processes.

Step 6. Edit & publish your organization's operations manual

Once you have feedback, review and update the content and organizational structure. You should also review the style and format for consistency across all sections.

The next crucial step is to publish your operations manual. You can publish it internally before sharing it with a client or customer.

With Scribe, you can share your operations manual with one click:

  • Share with teammates or clients via a link.
  • Invite your team to join your workspace.
  • Embed in company wikis and knowledge bases.
  • Export to HTML or PDF for a printable operation manual (Scribe Pro).

And with Scribe's universal updates, changes to your documentation will be made wherever it's stored.

Free operations manual templates

Customize these operations manual templates to fit the specific needs of your organization.

Operations manual template

Free Operations Manual Template
Free operations manual template

‎This operations manual template outlines the standard procedures and processes for your organization.

👉 ‎Try this operational manual template for free.

Operational plan template

Free operational plan template
Operational plan template

This operational plan template provides a clear roadmap for achieving objectives and aligning team efforts with the organization's mission and vision.

👉 ‎Try this operational plan template for free.

Step-by-step guide template

Free step-by-step guide template
Step-by-step guide template

Use this step-by-step guide template to:

  • Create clear and concise instructions for the execution of any task or process.
  • Help users quickly and easily complete tasks.
  • Increase efficiency and reduce the chance of human errors.

👉 ‎Try this step-by-step guide template for free.

Operations manual generator

Free operations manual generator
Free operations manual generator

‎Scribe's operations manual generator uses AI to write operations manuals based on your unique processes — in minutes.

👉 ‎Try the operations manual generator for free!

10‎0+ free process and procedure templates

Try from 100+ free process and procedure documentation templates in the Scribe template gallery.

100+ free process and procedure templates

‎Get more free operations manual templates and more. Use these templates to:

  • Build employee training and development materials.
  • Showcase your best practices and business procedures.
  • Reduce human error and projects done faster.

... all for half the time in effort.

Operations manual best practices

Follow these tips to create effective operation manuals that improve operational efficiency in your organization.

1. Create SOPs across teams

A good way to start is to have clearly defined standard operating procedures (SOPs). An SOP template is a fast way to create and maintain great SOPs. These templates are particularly helpful if you want to align your work and create consistent policies and procedures.


2. Consistency is key

Be consistent with the terminology you use. A well-structured operations manual is important for creating consistency across departments. For example, it can be confusing for employees if one department refers to a task as "asset management" and another calls it "inventory management." 

3. Maintain clarity

Write clearly and concisely. You want your operation manual to be easy to read and comprehensive enough to provide employees with relevant information. Be sure to avoid any jargon and write in clear, concise language.

4. Review & update your operations manual

Review and update your operations manual regularly. Ensure it is up to date with current policies and procedures.

If you've changed a procedure recently, include it in the new edition of your operations manual. If there are any changes in personnel, contact details or responsibilities, this should be reflected as well.

Operations manual challenges & solutions

The operations manual is a key tool for running your business. However, it may cause more harm than good if it's not easy to use and inconsistent with best practices. The best way to ensure that your operations manual is effective is by understanding your challenges and how to solve them.

Common operations manual challenges are due to a lack of focus on the right things, especially regarding accountability and responsibility for tasks. Other challenges to the operations manual are a result of the following:

Common operations manual challenges include:

1. The operations manual is too long & complex

This problem can be solved by making the manual concise and easy to read, focusing on the most important information. Create a system that allows people to update their knowledge as they learn more about processes.

Ensure that your operations manual is concise enough so everyone in your company can access all its contents at any time. You can opt for technical documentation to help the intended audience understand complex information.

📌 Related Resource: 6 Technical Writing Chrome Extensions to Try Today!

2. Employees don't read it

Why? They are busy or can't easily access information. A good way to tackle this challenge is to summarize key information and make it easy to find by adding icons to each section of your operations manual.

You can also supplement the text with a series of short training videos. This is an ideal solution for companies with employees who need a refresher or new information.

With Scribe Pages, you can easily add videos, GIFs and other multimedia to your documents, like this one:

Scribe Getting started with Slack
Getting started with Slack

‎It’s a fast and easy way to save time and share what you know about any process in seconds.

Operations manual benefits

There are multiple reasons why you need an operation manual. You may be training new employees and want to ensure everyone is on the same page. Or you're looking to scale your business and need a way to streamline processes.

Whatever the case, an operations manual can be a perfect way to achieve this. Here are just a few operations manual benefits:

1. Employee training

An operations manual makes employee onboarding much easier. They can refer to the manual instead of relying on you or another employee for clarification.

2. Support leave management

In times of change, an operations manual maintains consistency. Develop handover documentation templates that you can use to standardize the offboarding and ramp-up process. This excellent leave management tool will save hours while preserving institutional knowledge.

💡 Learn how change management SOPs can strengthen your business.

2. Create consistency among departments

An operations manual is essential if you want to create a consistent experience for employees and improve operations management. As an Ops leader, you can rely on it to create consistent processes and procedures across departments.

📌 Related resource: The Operations Manager Decoded: Role, Skills & New Insights

3. Prepare for natural disasters

Any effective operation manual should include emergency procedures on how to deal with natural disasters and other emergencies.

4. Improve employee retention

When employees understand what is expected, they tend to stay in the organization longer. Creating a business operation manual can help reduce staff turnover in your company’s operations. Incorporate different team members to get their insights, process improvement ideas and feedback.

5. Add value

Providing documentation is the best way to ensure that new owners can get up and running quickly and efficiently if you ever plan to sell your company. This peace of mind is essential when transitioning from one owner to another.

6. Creates efficient processes

Process documentation improves performance quality. Build and maintain standard operating procedures that show employees what is expected, how to do it and where to go for item-specific questions.

Create an operations manual with the main goal of operational improvement. Ensure that business procedures and processes are easy to follow and can be adopted by everyone, regardless of experience level.

Write an operations manual in minutes

An operations manual is an important tool for any company’s operations. It can help you keep track of procedures, document best practices, and train new employees.

Write operations manual documentation in minutes that you can easily update, share and use for years to come — saving time and improving efficiency.

Sign up for Scribe today and generate your operation manuals — for free!

Ready to try Scribe?

Scribe automatically generates how-to guides and serves them to your team when they need them most. Save time, stay focused, help others.