Documentation

Documentation is a focal point in an organization.  It is sets down the standards and records history; the history of both innovation and failures.  Good documentation helps train new comers and holds all colleagues accountable.  Without documentation, organizations are likely to repeat the same mistakes over, or have no idea how a mistake was made.

Documentation should be factual, contain enough information to be useful, yet remain concise.   There should be documentation standards and a keeper of the records to maintain those standards.  Below is a review some standard types of documentation and key factors to making those documents useful.

Document Master:  There should be a standard format for each type of document.  That format should contain author, approver(s), date and revision.  The storage location should be obvious about which documents are approved for use.  Documents under revision or obsoleted should have access limited.  This can be done through a process, or an electronic document control system (DCS).  If an electronic DCS is not used, naming convention needs to be standardized to speed finding the correct information.  Suggested naming convention  document type + area + specific topic + date in YYMMDD convention.  For example this document would be named BlogEngineerXXDocumentationYYMMDD

Using the date format of YYMMDD will sort documents easily.  The convention of MMDDYY will not sort in chronological order in a file format.

Process Flows:   Process flows are used for everything from mail delivery, to document control, through your most complex deliverable.  Ideally all of these processes would be documented.  However that is not often practical, so a priority needs to be set.

List all the process that need to be documented and order them by priority.  Develop process flows for all the critical process, and set a schedule to work through the rest of the list.  One tip for getting through the whole list is to assign new employees to create process flows as part of their on-boarding.  This helps with their indoctrination, plus gets process flow documented.

Process flows should ideally fit on one page.  Sub processes can be included on subsequent pages as a drill down process.  Process flows should have swim lanes or other information to indicate who is accountable and responsible for the activities on the process flow.

Recommended priority for process flow development

  • High impact processes (either safety or dollars)
    • Process that done correctly can save money or generate revenue
      • Example:  Assembly process of finished product
    • Process that done incorrectly has severe safety consequences
      • Example:  The lockout tagout process
    • Process that done incorrectly can cost significant money
      • Example:  A batch process that finishes at 5 minutes, but must be stopped before 10 minutes.  Removing the batch between 5 and 10 minutes is critical to success.  Early or late finishes are scrap.
  • Process that cross departmental boundaries.
    • When processes fall under different managers, it is important that processes are documented so there clear hand-offs and acceptance points.
  • Process that are performed often and by multiple individuals
    • To ensure consistent output, processes that are carried out by multiple individuals need to be standardized.  These are often then turned into standard operating procedures (SOP)

Standard Operation Procedures (SOP):  Repetitive work should be documented as standard operating procedures.  SOPs should cover management as well as frontline work.  SOPs should contain pictures and instructions on how to perform the work.  These are used to train new individuals and refresh training for all employees.  SOPs are detailed instructions that can be turned into check lists for short reminder versions that are used for daily/weekly interactions.

Checklists: Checklists are short reminders of work to be performed.  They should concentrate on activities that have direct impact on performance.  Checklists should be designed to be completed in one time period.  For instance, a checklist longer than an hour or two should be broken into multiple checklist or routes.  Few people work longer than two hours straight without taking a quick break (coffee, phone call, et’c)

Checklists should not be used as a management tool.  Checklists are to ensure that processes are followed or to check product and equipment condition, not as a substitute for management activities.  If the checklist activity does not have a direct effect on the organization’s output, it is likely not necessary.

Responsibility Accountability Consulted Informed (RACI) :  This is a matrix that assigns accountability and responsibility for activities.  It also helps colleagues understand their role in operational activities.  A RACI can help the consulted and informed understand why they are not able to significantly influence certain areas of the business.

Portion of Example RACI

Continuous Improvement (CI) and Root Cause Analysis (RCA):  CI and RCA activities need to be documented to ensure that mistakes are not repeated.  How often have you been in one of these activities and someone says “hey -didn’t we try that when …”

Properly documented and filed CI and RCA activities should be reviewed at the beginning of every new CI or RCA.  These files can save lots of frustration and wasted effort and money.

Training and Qualification Matrix:  This matrix is useful when changing roles or when help is needed in a pinch.  Understanding the skills required for a job, as well as who in the organization has those skills helps define training needs and budgets.

Lube Training Matrix example

This is just a list of some of the types of documentation required in an organization.  There are lots of forms and other types of documents required to run an organization.  The ones listed here are key to managing the organization, but are often not formally documented.  Large organizations may assume everyone “knows”.  Small organizations  may not realize the importance of this type of documentation as they outgrow the one person in a role structure.

Review and see if there are any gaps in your organization.  It takes time and discipline to create a good document system.  However, the benefits of having one are worth the effort required to build and maintain one.

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