An organization is a body of various moving parts, all of which need to be kept under constant check so that it all operates smoothly. This is a well-known truth.
However, when it comes to managing one, it can be a very tedious task. You have to be aware of how each part operates and how you can continue to keep it in great condition. But, simply speaking of it makes you feel overwhelmed.
So, all these companies that are up and running — are they operating on magic? Well, we don’t know about magic, but we do know of a tool — O&M manuals. These manuals are like guidebooks and come in different types for different purposes. So, let us unravel this ‘magic’ and see how it works and also look at the different types of manuals while we are at it.
What are O&M manuals, & why do they matter?
As usual, we will first start by learning what an O&M Manual is and what it consists of.
O&M manual stands for Operations and Maintenance Manual. These are necessarily like guides and how-to books that can cover various topics starting from the upkeep of equipment to managing an entire department in an organization. It is a very useful guide that can help you run your organization smoothly, alongside training new employees and hires.
You will find that organizational managers, executive managers, technicians, and so on make use of such manuals. But what do these O&M Manuals consist of? Let us take a look:
The O&M Manual will start with an overview of what it is about, what it contains, and how you can make use of it. It will also contain information about the company, its purpose, and so on.
If the O&M Manual is for equipment, it will give you a physical blueprint of the structure of the equipment. It will give you information on how it was built, the materials it is made of, floor plans, codes, and so on.
For every O&M Manual, there will be a part dedicated to maintenance. It is, after all, one of the main purposes of the O&M Manual.
This portion will give you a detailed idea of how you can maintain and look after your equipment, department, and so on.
Of course, you need an O&M Manual in the first place so that you can ensure that your equipment or department is operating properly. This section in the O&M Manual gives you detailed instructions on ‘how-to.’
Emergencies can happen for any and all types of organizations.
O&M Manuals also keep this in mind and have a section on what to do during emergencies. It highlights various plausible situations and tells you procedures to follow during them.
The last thing you need in an emergency is more chaos. So, O&M Manuals give you all the instructions you need during emergencies so that you can avoid chaos and solve the issue at hand.
O&M Manuals are excellent tools to train new hires and employees without needing any trial and error method. You can also save up on training by simply handing them the O&M Manuals and teaching them the way about the organization based on it.
Different types of manuals
Now that we have a good idea of what an O&M Manual is and what it consists of, we can now get into deeper details.
Let us answer the question— What are the different types of service manuals?
If we see it this way, O&M Manuals are versatile documents that can be prepared for any situation that demands it. Therefore, you can make a manual for anything you need. But, if we try to categorize it, we can put O&M Manuals under the following umbrellas:
Organizational manuals are your guide to the structure of an organization. It informs you of the positions the company offers, the hierarchy according to which it is set, the roles that each position plays, and their duties and responsibilities. It also highlights detailed info on what each role does. This type of manual helps the organization run in a free and effective manner.
Training manuals, as the name suggests, are handy for training recruits. It comes with detailed step-by-step instructions about the various rules and regulations of the organization. Any trainer can use the document as a reference to train recruits and upgrade their skills.
Administrative manuals outline the details of standard procedures and methods followed by the organization. It may vary from department to department, but overall ensures a smooth flow of work and correct administration of organizational procedures. Some examples would be — marketing support manuals, HR support manuals, IT support manuals, and so on.
Service manuals are what one would find along with any piece of equipment. It comes with detailed information about the make and builds of the machine, maintenance information, and emergency protocols on what should be done if certain situations persist with the equipment.
Operation manuals are also manuals you find alongside the equipment. Here, these manuals act as guides to how you can operate the machine. It outlines instructions for the technicians on how to handle the device and operate them correctly. It ensures that the equipment is run properly and safely by the staff.
Policy manuals offer you insight into the policies, rules, and regulations that an organization follows. It helps you get an idea of the vision and goals of the company. It also helps pave the way for the development and growth of the company.
User manuals are the manuals that customers usually get when they purchase a service or a product. It outlines the information about the product or service they have purchased, how to set it up or use it, maintain it, and the kind of precautions that one should take while handling it. It is a book of guidelines that both skilled and unskilled people can adhere to.
So, these are the most basic categorizations of manuals. Of course, you can further divide and subdivide these categories to get more precise versions of manuals pertaining to the particular needs of the organizations. For example, some other types of manuals in technical writing are product manuals, API documentation, SDK documentation, user guides and so on.
Mastering the art of creating different types of manuals
As we mentioned earlier, manuals can be created for anyone and for any purpose.
As long as you have an audience and something to teach them, you can create a manual for it.
However, creating a manual that is effective needs skills and techniques. So, here, we will share the secret formula on how you can create an effective manual.
Step 1: Who are you creating the manual for?
The first step here is to determine who you are creating this manual for. Understanding the end-line audience will help you predict their behavior and hence aid in creating a more relevant manual.
Step 2: Why do you need the manual?
The next thing to determine here is what you need a manual for. Once you have a clear understanding of your purpose, it will be easier for you to steer your manual in that direction. Hence, you will have a goal, and the path to it will be through your manual.
For example, you are introducing a new technology in your office, and you want your employees to make use of this technology and get accustomed to it. A manual will help you lay out new rules and practices for your employees to follow.
Step 3: What would you require for this manual?
The next thing you would need here are materials that would support your manual. The technical know-how, information, data, and so on. You can gather such information from professionals or conduct surveys to get what you need.
Step 4: Give it a shape
Now that you have all you need to start setting up your outline, it's time for you to start giving it shape. Start by outlining the structure of your manual. Keep in mind the format you are following, and make sure it is easy to follow and understand.
Step 5: Spice it up!
We all know that manuals can be lengthy and boring. But it can be different for your case. Instead of going for the usual monotonous formats, you can go for an interesting style. For instance, instead of simply having step-after-step of boring instructions, you can make it interactive. Go for a nice layout, include images and infographics, and drop in exercises that the readers can participate in.
You can also opt for online materials. One great tool that you can use here is Scribe and Scribe Pages.
It's an amazing tool that can help you document how-to steps and automatically put them in an easy-to-understand video format that will be easy for your employees to follow.
Step 6: Draft & release
Before sharing it among your employees, make sure to make drafts and proofread it first. As manuals can be lengthy documents, you need to ensure that there are no mistakes in them. Also, as these are guidebooks, any mistake may cause more damage than you think. So, ensure that your manual is free of any errors.
Step 7: Keep coming back to it
A good manual can withstand the test of time. Therefore, a vital step in the process of creating an excellent manual is to keep updating it to keep it relevant with time. So, keep coming back to it now and then to ensure that it is up-to-date and effective.
With that, we have covered all that we need to know about O&M Manuals, the different types of manuals, and how you can create an excellent manual.