The easiest way to create documentation - anything is better than nothing

How many people would have to be hit by a bus for your business to be interrupted? What’s your bus factor? Is it a 1, or a 2 or a different number? When someone goes on vacation, do things simply stop? What if someone were to leave – what then?

It’s a harsh truth, but honestly, a lot of businesses don’t have much documented. They understand the need – but are too busy in the day-to-day operations to pause and capture the actual details, and put them down on paper.

No one wakes up in the morning and says “I want to create a standard operating procedure today.” It’s one of those jobs that feels like dusting the baseboards or organizing your kitchen cabinets – best left for someone else, best left for another day, and best not thought about.

How do you make creating documentation less painful to create Business Process Documentation & Standard Operating Procedures?

Option 1 – Do nothing.

Don’t document anything and just accept the fact that your business could break down at any point in time. This is the harsh reality of where a lot of businesses are. Honestly, it’s an option. It’s not the best option – but it’s definitely a possibility.

Option 2 – Commit to ghetto documentation.

Start with the most basic of documentation – so that there is something written down. Capture the most basic pieces of knowledge, and then come back later on and add more details.

    • Use video to record your screen while you explain it.
    • Create a voice memo or an audio recording.
    • Scribble some notes on a piece of paper, or make a drawing a process flow on the back of a napkin. Take a picture of the documentation, and then voila – documentation without the pain.

Basic, yes, but so much better than nothing. It’s more important to have the content than it is to have pretty online documents. Just make sure that everything is saved in the right shared folder – so you can get to it later on.

Option 3 – Divide, delegate and conquer.

If you have a team, then it’s going to be easiest if you divide and conquer. Have a team meeting, let everyone know that this is a joint project, and the documentation is now a part of everyone’s job. Each person will need to create the procedures for their job. You’ll need to provide a template and let them know what level of detail you expect. Use check-ins to see how things are coming along. Ask them to show you when they have their first document 30% done and 60% done, so you can provide guidance along the way. After the first document, the rest will be much easier to create.

Option 4 – Documentation Wednesdays.

Set aside a specific block of hours for everyone to work on documentation, and make it a team event. For example, set aside 2-4 pm on a Wednesday afternoon (or any other day of the week), and plan for no other meetings or work during that time. Everyone works on documentation then. While there will initially be some grumbling – if you make this a recurring theme – every week, every other week, or a monthly maintenance meeting – it will soon become a habit and in a few months, it will be the new norm.

Option 5 – Cross-train your team.

Use the training process as a time to create documentation. If you’ve hired in a new person, or you’re simply training someone on something new, make this an opportunity to capture the details of what goes on. Either the trainer or the trainee can capture the notes, and then use the document to actually do their new work.

Option 6 – Hire an outside person to only do documentation.

Sometimes, it’s simply most efficient to have one person who does nothing but capture, update and maintain everything. They don’t get tied up in any of the day-to-day details of running the business, and it’s easy for them to maintain focus and make some significant progress. It really depends on the size and structure of your organization if you can justify having someone dedicated to this, and it’s worth considering – especially if you just can’t seem to get it done by yourself.

The most important thing is to get started. Regardless of which option you choose – remember that in the long run, processes and systems make it easier to do your job.

Go forth and conquer.