Document your business’ knowledge to become more efficient

Here’s another insightful article from OPEN forum, about how helpful it is to document your business’ procedures and practices.  Bringing your staff together to discuss and set out your companies’ particular traditions can help their ideas about ‘best’ practice become ‘common’ practice. Click here to read more in the OPEN forum context, or scroll down to read the article on our blog.

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Business owners often obsess over protecting assets, and rightly so. Asset are the tangible, hard won elements that business uses to help support a picture of overhaul health and valuation.

But, let’s expand the view of assets for a minute. Have you ever stopped to think about how valuable the collective knowledge of your business is worth? Aren’t your success systems and processes, the “how we do it here” kind of things really assets as well?

Many small businesses actually run, thrive, and grow based on figuring out how to do something better than everyone else in the industry, how to create a richer experience, or even how to deliver a better bang for the buck. To me, this knowledge is not only an asset, it’s a crucial asset – well worth protecting.

And yet, all too frequently, this knowledge, this asset walks out the door every evening.

The main thrust of this article is to implore you to start capturing the “how we do it here” – the systems and processes that make your place special – in the form of an operations, or what I like call knowledge, manual.

Now, before you recoil at the idea of documenting every moving part in your business, let me share some good news. The creation of your knowledge manual can and should involve collaboration between you and those charged with operating the systems.

By employing online wiki style tools such as Central Desktop you can outline, document, and refine all of your systems and processes almost as they are being implemented. Collaboration technology allows anyone and everyone to contribute to the creation and documentation of your knowledge manual.

In case you’re thinking this sounds like a chore simply offloaded from the plate of ownership to the plate of staff, let me share my experience with this way of thinking. Most employees, regardless of level of responsibility, do much better work when they understand what’s expected and have a clear understanding of the routine work. In fact, a system the clearly shows how to get the desired result often frees people up to think about the more creative questions such as “how can we get the desired result faster?”

I’ve witnessed staffs coming together in very positive ways around the idea of looking at every task a business does in strategic ways and linking how one job impacts another, impacts another, and impacts the bottom line. All too often people toil away with very little appreciation for the impact their contribution makes to the big picture. A knowledge and operations manual can help foster these kinds of connections internally.

By creating a simple tool and giving people the freedom to create and map the best processes for success you may find that not only are you capturing valuable assets your empowering people to improve the assets.

Of course as you add staff and realign responsibilities, few things will serve you better than a set of documented success systems.

Don’t wait another day, create and organize your online knowledge manual and start to invite everyone in your organization to document and, perhaps for the first time, help draw a complete diagram of the vision you have for your own little slice of world domination – or, well, at least a dominating and consistent customer experience.

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What do you think? Would you have your staff take time out of their normal duties to do this, or do you think it might be a waste of time? Have you already got a procedures manual? How do you use it? Tell us here!

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