Systemisation – Why you need an Operations Manual

Monday, January 13th, 2014

Efficient operations, great customer service and profitable growth require a consistent and proven process which delivers the same result with the same quality time after time.  This has to be maintained no matter how busy you are and no matter how fast the company grows.

You cannot rely solely upon individual knowledge and motivation to achieve this.  People get sick or leave.  Steps are skipped or forgotten during busy periods.  Word-of-mouth or on-the-job training for new staff is an ineffective means of transmitting crucial knowledge about how the required results are achieved.

Great businesses are well-managed, and good management requires good measurement of the things going on in the business (and prompt action when those measurements deviate from the norm).

For all these reasons it is essential that all the key processes in the business are documented and that those processes are followed.  This is called the Operations Manual.

How do you create an Operations Manual?

The manual has to be written, maintained – and read.  It should therefore be as concise as possible whilst providing the information necessary for a new employee to quickly get up to speed.

Think about the operation as a series of steps, or procedures.  For example, in some businesses this will start with designing a solution, then purchasing materials, then manufacturing, shipping and installation.  If you are stuck start with the following top-level processes:  1) getting new business 2) delivering the service 3) paying and getting paid and 4) controlling the business.

For a small business you might be able to describe it in a few simple steps on one level.  For most businesses you will need a hierarchy where top-level steps are broken down to lower-level steps.

For each of these lowest-level steps, your Operations Manual should describe:

–          The activity and what it is for

–          When it happens – what triggers it and how often

–          The inputs (raw materials, information).  If relevant, the step these come from

–          The outputs (materials, information).  If relevant, the step these go to next

–          How the efficiency, productivity and quality of the step is measured and what standards are expected

–          How and when the activity is monitored and controlled

There are various computer systems that will help you document and maintain your operations manual; however, it is perfectly adequate to use Word and a simple filing system.

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