Top 3 Problems Organizations Face When Documenting Processes

Process documentation is necessary for any efficient and effective business, whether it be a Fortune 500 organization or a small mom and pop shop.  Having repeatable processes which can be referenced by any staff at any time is critical.  It’s unfortunate that so many individuals have difficulty in producing process documentation which can stand the test of time.  You can be a successful process manager by avoiding the following three pitfalls.

Processes are not consumable

Customer needs should always come first!  Well, that simple fact is often forgotten when a person or people are assigned the dubious task to create or document a process.  It is crucial to understand who will be using the documented process, and in what circumstances.

For example: You need to document the project delivery lifecycle, but you know you have experienced staff who will need high level views of the process, and new recruits who will need more information.  You decide to document the process at the highest level so it is meaningful to existing staff, but you also allow recent hires the ability to expand the process details to obtain the deeper level of details required.  By making these slight adjustments while designing the process, you will create one that is meaningful to all consumers.

It’s important to know your consumers and the level of details they need, in order to meet their expectations.  It is also acceptable to produce different views of a process for different consumers if you have tools which make this an easy task.  So many times you will see processes documented in a single paper which could be in excess of 100 pages and then wonder why everyone isn’t following it verbatim.  Remember the KISS principle with a slight refinement, Keep It Simple and Straightforward.

Processes are not measurable

Measuring the value of a process is a major step so often overlooked and yet is critical in delivering the expected results.  In order to determine the best means of measurement, you must identify the value of the process, understand the customer’s expectations, and look at what information you have available for assessment.  In some cases, you will need to build the measures into the process in order to properly evaluate its effectiveness.

Measures are important to review anytime a change is made to the process.  By looking at before and after data, you can determine if the change yielded the intended result, or if it should be backed out.

The main point is to start measuring, even if the measurements aren’t elaborate or cover all aspects of the process. Start with at least a single measurement regarding the delivery of value to the customer and evolve the measures over time.

Processes are not adaptable

Processes are ideally created to provide consistency of delivery and practice in an organization.  However, some organizations take a very legalistic view to process adherence which can actually result in deviations.  Not all business adapts easily to an assembly line mentality, and as such, you need to build your processes with some flexibility in mind.

When you are documenting a process, think about the variances which could apply.  Are there tasks or activities that might apply only in some cases but not necessarily all?  Understanding where the process can be flexible and where it must be rigid is critical to creating documentation that is meaningful, clear, and beneficial to those consuming it.

Avoid being seen as the process police. You want to be seen as a process enabler. Your goal should be to enable the business to deliver value to the end customer.

Process documentation doesn’t have to be the dreaded task it is often made out to be.  By addressing the concerns raised above, you can actually manage the processes of your organization very effectively and be seen as a respected and valued contributor to your organization.


• Posted by Cecile Hurley on Apr 03, 2017
• Filed under Articles
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