Documentation

An Operations Manual Guide: What it is & How to Make Yours Effective

An operations manual is a document that describes how to perform a certain task. Learn more about the importance of an operations manual and how to create one for your organization

Introduction

In today’s digital age, businesses no longer need to store paper copies of their employee manuals. Instead, companies can now create digital versions of these documents as operations manual to be stored online and accessed whenever necessary. An operations manual is a document that outlines the specific procedures a business needs to follow to run smoothly.

This can include operation instructions from handling customer inquiries to every aspect of day-to-day tasks in your company, 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 job.

This article will introduce you to how to write an operation manual, their importance and challenges.

What is an operations manual?

An operations manual is a document that provides employees with information about how to do their job. A well-outlined operating manual will ensure that all employees are on the same page and that everyone knows their specific role in keeping the company running.

Operation manuals are created for different reasons. First, people working in the company must know how to do their job properly. An operations documentation outlines all these necessary procedures and day-to-day operations. Second, your organization may also need an operations manual for legal reasons.

Organizations with an [operational plan] should create an operation manual. It is an incredibly useful tool for Ops teams and new business owners trying to get everything up and running. 

What goes into an operations manual?

Operation manuals are often common in B2B industries, such as healthcare, construction, transportation and real estate. Its content will depend on your business's nature, but it should also cover essential areas of the company.

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 corporation, an operation manual can help you run your business more effectively.

In general, an operations manual will outline the following:

  • The company's history, vision and mission statement.
  • The company's organizational structure.
  • The roles and responsibilities of each member of the team.
  • The company's policies and procedures.
  • The company's products or services.

Why do you need an operations manual?

The answer? 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 guidebook to achieve this. Having one can be beneficial in several ways, such as;

1. Employee training

An operations manual makes training new employees much easier. They can refer to the manual instead of relying on you or another employee to show them the ropes.

2. Create consistency among departments

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

3. Prepare for natural disasters

Any effective operation manual should include instructions on how to deal with natural disasters and other emergencies. This way, your employees will be prepared for any scenario, should it ever arise.

4. Improve employee retention

When employees learn what is expected of them, they tend to stay in the organization for longer. Creating an operation manual can help reduce staff turnover in your company.

5. Added value

Providing documentation for your organization will add to your market value and the mark of a professional team. It's 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

Documenting your processes through an operations manual improves quality. It shows employees what is expected, how to do it and where to go for item-specific questions.

Learn more about how to write process documentation

Overall, you should create an operations manual with the main goal of improving operational efficiency. You should ensure that the procedures and processes are easy to follow and can be adopted by everyone, regardless of their experience level.

How to build 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 you create an effective one. If you've never written one before or aren't sure how to start, this guide will help get you on the right path.

1. Define the purpose of your operations manual

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

Why?

If you're too detailed, your employees might be overwhelmed with information they don't need. And if you have any 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 you need to ask yourself:

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

2. Create a structure for your operations manual

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

  • Is it going to be used by users or workers?
  • Will it be used as an internal resource or shared with other departments?
  • What kind of content should go in there?

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 your team with documentation writing.

An effective operational 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. You can use an existing operational manual as your template or borrow content from another organization's operational manual and adapt it to your needs.

4. Write your operations manual

The first step in writing your operations manual is to create an outline. It would help if you started by brainstorming every topic and function of your business. This will help you develop ideas for each section, which can then be organized into categories based on their importance or relevance to the business's overall goals and objectives.

After that, write down all these ideas until you understand how everything will flow throughout your document. Ensure you have a step-by-step guide template with instructions on performing repetitive procedures. Or use tools like Scribe to write your guides for you.

This will standardize all the processes by outlining the key steps to reach the desired objective.

Step-by-step guides will also promote collaboration among the team and ensure a better onboarding experience.

5. Edit & publish your organization's operations manual

Revise the content and structure of your operations manual by ensuring the language used is correct. You should also review the style and format for consistency across all sections of your organization's operations manuals.

The next crucial step is to publish your operations manual. You can publish it online, like Google Docs or Dropbox, before submitting it to any client or customer. This way, anyone with access can easily find it, read through it, and use its content — no matter where they are in the world!

Here is a simple Scribe on how to wrap text in Google Sheets. (That only took 7 seconds to make!)

And here's a larger process doc made with Scribe Pages — combining several step-by-step guides to walk a user through how to analyze and present data on Google Sheets.

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). You need an SOP template if you're looking for 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 always refers to a particular 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 the relevant information. Be sure to avoid any jargon and write in clear, concise language.

4. Review & update your operations manual

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

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

Operations manual challenges & their 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:

  • Lack of planning and resources.
  • Lack of consistency.
  • Lack of proper training.

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. You should also create a system that allows people to update their knowledge as they learn more about their business.

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.

2. Employees don't read it

This is because 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. However, you can also leverage it as part of a larger initiative to increase employee engagement and prevent errors in the future.

Use Scribe and Scribe Pages as part of the solution to train your teams.

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

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Building your operations manual

An operations manual is an important tool for any business. It can help you keep track of procedures, document best practices, and train new employees. If you're thinking about creating an operations manual, there are a few things you should keep in mind.

First, consider what goes into an operations manual. There's no one-size-fits-all template, so you'll need to tailor your manual to your specific business. Include information on your company's culture, values, and goals. You should also include step-by-step instructions for commonly performed tasks. Following these tips, you can create an operations manual that will help your business run smoothly for years.