This article is Part 1 of a 3 part series on creating procedures and instructions for your business. Read Part 2 where we list and explain ten benefits of creating procedures and work instructions, and also Part 3 where we go through the best tips for creating procedures and work instructions in your business.
That instruction sheet next to that toy above represents something very important to your business.
Can you guess what that is?
…also ask yourself:
Why would they bother including instructions for something so small and obvious in the first place?
It’s just a toy. Any one of us could figure out how it works in a couple of minutes or less. However, we could probably figure out the same thing in a matter of seconds with a quick read or glance at the instructions.
That’s why the toy maker included the instruction. They knew the child (probably an impatient boy) would want to play with the toy truck right now, so they likely wrote those simple instructions to:
- Get him to the finished and expected result,
- In a consistent way,
- And do it as quick as reasonably possible.
So what does this have to do with your business?
The answer is most instructions are created keeping those three things in mind. Do you provide procedures and instructions to your employees so they can accomplish those same three goals?
Let’s say that by reading that instruction, the boy saved one minute of his time. Now if there are 100,000 of those toys sold per year, that’s 100,000 minutes saved. 1,667 hours. What if that scenario was instead your employees faced with completing any number of tasks, and your instructions had saved them the equivalent time? Keeping the math easy by using a labor cost of $100 per hour, that’s over $160,000 dollars saved per year.
That’s why that toy image is important to your business:
Your entire business can benefit from easy and obvious procedures and instructions.
Maybe your employees don’t need instructions for everything they do and on every job they complete. They might have been trained, and probably come across many of the same job tasks over and over again. Maybe they don’t want to use instructions.
A quick side note: I have a freebie at the end of this article that will help get “buy-in” from your employees when you introduce new procedures or instructions. More on that later.
Now, what about new hires?
They need to know the what and how of any new task placed before them. What about the obscure twice-per-year job where you need to remember that critical piece of information that requires that one tool/spec/part you need to get the job done…but that was forgotten or the new worker didn’t even know they needed it?
What happens then?
They end up making another trip back to get the missing part, equipment, tools, specifications, etc. You’re stalled with the job progress and the customer is waiting patiently.
Quality and consistency puts your company reputation on the line, and having procedures and instructions in place are a way to proactively meet those two goals.
Other business owners are in the same place you are. They are considering creating procedures and instructions in their business or have already started, often motivated by inconsistencies in their service or processes in their company. Something keeps breaking and they know it needs to be fixed. Owners want to know if spending the time and energy on this is going to be effective. None of them, you, or me went through Procedure-Writing School, so we all look to others who have done this before and try to learn from what works best.
If this sounds like you, then you are in the right place.
Of course being involved with what’s happening and checking on everyone in your business is important, but the power of a written instruction or procedure cannot be understated, no matter what the industry or task at hand.
You may think the key to quality and consistency in your business is keeping a watchful eye on everyone and on every job that’s going on.
But really, the real key to quality and consistency is having workers who know exactly what they should be working on, and the knowledge of how they need to do it.
So, if you just spell those things out for them in a series of documents, your workers will know what they should be working and know exactly how to get it done..and a higher level of consistency and quality is certain to happen.
You can have quality and consistency while not having to keep checking on everyone.
Personally, I’ve written job instructions for assembly line employees cutting, welding, and soldering millions of dollars worth of product PER WEEK of small components that go on circuit boards. I’ve also created software development guidelines for companies making millions of dollars per year. I even researched and created oil-changing instructions for myself to change the oil on my own car (it’s a German car, so I need strange tools and things are in weird places).
I honestly didn’t want to create any of those procedures and instructions…they had to be created. I had to create and maintain instructions for those assembly line workers, because those products had to go out the door on Friday and-meet quality specs. I had to create software development steps and guidelines to maintain software quality. Those things had to work. I had to write my oil-changing instruction for my car…if my wife seen what our garage floor looked like after those spills, I’d me in trouble.
But what about your business?
What do you and your business stand to gain by having clear procedures and instructions for your employees?
There’s more to gain than you may realize. Maybe you can think of some reasons, but I was able to think of ten things:
10 Benefits Your Business Can Get By Creating and Using Procedures and Instructions
- Everyone knows how to do their jobs
- A hands-off training guide
- A way to retain knowledge in your company
- Consistent processes
- Consistent service
- Flush out broken processes in your company
- Create a measurable feedback loop
- A way for you to finally “think things through”
- Paves the way for official company HR policies
- Selling your business? Procedures and instructions can make your company more valuable.
I’ll expand on each of these “10 Business Benefits” in Part 2 of this article series on creating procedures and instructions for your business.
You might have a few concerns or questions about implementing something like this in your business.
Do they sound like any of these?
I don’t have the time to create them…
The answer is you can ease into it. Pick one obvious process or job task, preferably one that has recently caused you trouble since it’s fresh in your mind and likely still stings a little. Plus, creating the second and third procedure or instruction progressively gets easier as you can look back on what you have already created. Just getting the ball rolling is key.
My crew won’t follow the procedures…
The best way to get people to do something is to have them be a part of the process.
For a process you want documented, go to your two or three key people that know this process and have them walk you through it. Get their input and ask where they think things could go better. They are much more likely to follow if they are part of the process. If you find different versions of the process/job/task from separate people, is this a way of flushing out potential issues with quality and consistency. I’ll talk more on this in Part 3 of this article series.
Having procedures for everything will make things too complicated…
I’ll be the first to say I don’t want unnecessary procedures or instructions either. The goal of a procedure is to set an overall standard of what should be done, and an instruction (based on the procedure) would be a specific group of job tasks and what you need to get those tasks done.
Instructions should only be as detailed they have to be, and no more. An example for an HVAC service and repair business could be you would create a procedure for residential furnace repair, but write instructions for various scenarios based on major types of furnace repairs or even for a specific furnace model that requires careful work.
If you are still worried things will be too complicated…just write the instruction, and don’t bother with the procedure for now.
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When my business changes, I’ll be stuck updating procedures or instructions as well…
You’ll be surprised how little you will have to change procedures and instructions once they are written. Plus, your workers will realize when a document is wrong or incorrect and offer ideas on what should be written. Maybe you can even put them in charge of rewriting it. You’ll keep them involved and likely have them on your side as part of the process and retain their buy-in.
Like I mention before, a procedure should be general enough that it’s unlikely to change much if at all. For instructions, you can note places on the instruction where changes often occur (product models, time of year changes in techniques, etc). Doing this at least signals the worker to pay special attention in this area.
My competitors probably are not doing this…
You are right. There are likely many who are not taking the time or want to invest the energy. I’ve talked to dozens of business owners who are “fine” and “don’t really have any problems”. They are also the ones who have remained stagnant for years. The sharpest owners I’ve talked to have no end of problems in their business (they keep pushing their boundaries) and are usually the leading company in their line of work in their area.
Who do you want to compete with? The highly profitable and reputable service leader in the area, or this guy?
Creating procedures and instructions for your business is easier than you might think. The benefits from doing so create a culture of continuous improvement in your business while helping everyone involved do a better job with more consistency. Your customers stand to benefit as well, and all these positive things can feed directly back into your business.
By the way, I’m making a simple way for workers to use work instructions and checklists during the job. Checkout the demo for more info.
You’ve just read part 1 of our 3-part series on creating procedures and work instructions for your business. You can also read Part 2 where we list and explain ten benefits of creating procedures and work instructions, and also Part 3 where we go through the best tips for creating procedures and work instructions in your business.