Say you’re a manager in a company. Over the past few months, you’ve created frameworks that help you save time, minimize errors and repeat (or scale) previous success. Now, you’ve decided to hire contractors to do some heavy lifting in certain parts of your business. You interview, onboard, let go and work with various contractors. Wouldn’t it be frustrating to explain the same frameworks again and again?
You’re not alone. Successful businesses run on procedures that enhance efficiency and productivity while minimizing time investment. But you can’t do that without documenting and distributing these procedures throughout the organization to reduce the back and forth.
In this article, we’ll talk about step-by-step procedures, why you need them and how you can begin creating them to set solid frameworks that pave the path toward organizational efficiency and success.
What are step-by-step procedures, & how are they beneficial?
A procedure is a set of instructions that tell a person how to perform a task by breaking it into smaller, actionable steps. One of the most common examples of a procedure is a Standard Operating Procedure that details how to approach and perform a specific for consistency.
For example, if you want to teach new employees how to modify events from Google calendar as part of their onboarding, here’s a procedure you can use.
Here are some benefits step-by-step procedures:
- Ensures accuracy. A standard procedure takes you through a visual route to guide each action you should take to perform a task successfully. There's minimum scope of error since it’s super detailed and documented by an expert (or their input) with visuals and walkthroughs.
- Acts as a single source of truth. Every leader in your organization likely has a different way of doing a similar task. Even new employees might come in with unique, valuable processes. Procedures will act as the single source of truth to ensure consistency, performance and brand alignment.
- Helps replicate previous success. While there’s no one-size-fits-all formula for success, doubling down on best practices can help you replicate the same results. With documented procedures, you can get your entire team on the same level, enhance cross-functional collaboration and increase your chances of succeeding.
- Boosts operations and productivity. Instead of experimenting to find new ways of doing things more efficiently, refine existing plug-and-play procedures for use in relevant situations to enhance your team’s productivity and streamline operations.
How to document, share and store step-by-step procedures?
Now that you know why you need procedures to bring your team together and automate frameworks that have helped you save time and maximize results — let’s discuss the how.
Creating procedures is useless if they’re not understandable and easy to follow. So, let’s look at some best practices to record highly-efficient procedures.
1. Identify which procedures are worth documenting
Not all procedures need to be documented. First, identify which procedures to record based on your end goal, purpose and priority.
For example, instead of walking your marketing team through how to upload a post on Instagram, consider creating a procedure on how to inject branding and tone of voice into social media content. This guide is more significant in attracting users and helps build recall value.
You’ll likely want to develop a procedure if team members are constantly confused about a particular task, ask repeat questions, make a lot of errors, or interpret one process in wildly different ways. Notch Solutions, a web design and marketing agency suggests:
For this, you can survey team members, do quick 1-1’s, look at previous campaign performance, look at the questions in your collaboration/communication tool or simply observe in meetings to make a call on which procedures to document.
However, Erica Schneider, the content head at Grizzle feels otherwise:
Bottom line: Let your goals and purpose guide your procedure choice and priorities forward!
2. Gather procedure info from internal SMEs
Once you’ve identified which procedure to start with, do some digging.
If you’re not the expert in the process you’re about to document, it’s best to take input from team leads and managers.
If you are, in fact, the person who’s been carrying this procedure for some time now, make sure you run it by other people in similar capacities. Align on what success looks like and identify which solution should govern the process.
Here are some ways to collect data and insights around the procedure you wish to document:
- Conduct calls with different teams or individual team members and make notes.
- Ask to be a part of their internal team meetings to gauge an understanding of the procedures in action and identify bottlenecks.
- Distribute a survey with both close-ended and open-ended questions.
- Look at historical records to find any similar procedure documented before.
Another way to ensure accuracy is to co-create or brainstorm with the team involved like Celeste suggests here:
3. Choose a tool to document and store your procedure
With the material in place, you’re all set to document your process. Keep in mind you’ll likely want to create step-by-step instructions with visuals.
While you can do this manually (by writing down each step on a doc and copying/pasting screenshots or adding screen recordings), that can lose you a lot of time — fast.
Instead, use a documentation tool that can automate the process for you. Scribe turns every process into a step-by-step guide. All you need to do is go about your usual process and watch Scribe auto-generate a document with visuals and annotations.
You also want to make it easy for team members to switch between procedures and create an organized library with a file naming convention to simplify navigation. (Scribe makes this easy!).
4. Decide when and how you want to inject the procedures into your operations
You can’t just create procedures and leave them for your team to find. You need to strategically place them in your day-to-day operations and training to make them part of the routine.
For example, if audience research is a fundamental part of your marketing, your marketing team should know what process to follow each time. Instead of sending the procedure before every campaign, embed it in a knowledge base and introduce the guides during onboarding. Pin it at the top of your collaboration tool and reference the process when necessary.
Similarly, place it across different operational stages for easy reference and use based on your procedure’s purpose and end goal.
5. Keep refining
Procedures don’t follow a create-and-forget approach. You need to update them to incorporate best practices and team feedback. Is there an easier, faster or more efficient way? Sounds like your new best practice.
Although it may sound tedious to keep updating procedures, it doesn’t have to be. Make sure you’re well-equipped with the information you need to create and implement the procedure. The more work done in the beginning, the less you’ll need to change over time.
And when it comes to significant edits, keep the end goal in mind: better operational efficiency, faster goal achievement, and (of course) business growth.
Use procedures to level up your team's efficiency
Documentation makes critical processes easier to understand, retain and implement.
This matters even more when it comes to operational tasks like procedures.
It determines your team's efficiency, takes the load off of the senior team, streamlines processes and promises success.
Use the best practices mentioned in this article to start recording your procedures and boost your team’s operational appetite — one step at a time.