Documentation can feel like a drag, but it is an important part of making sure your organization is successful. Without proper documentation, there is no record of how to reliably implement processes, and a complete lack of consistency could occur. Documentation is also necessary for important guidelines and policies to be referenced once they are established.

Anytime there is a new process at your workplace, there should be a document drafted to legitimize it.

Overview: What is a document?

A document is a collection of data, outputted from a manual or electronic source, that serves as information or instruction for an activity that is part of a process or procedure.

4 benefits of a document

There are some distinct advantages to having documentation that should not be overlooked:

1. Saving time and energy

There have been estimates that show that the average worker who deals in knowledge spends roughly two and a half hours a day searching for information. Effective documentation cuts down on the time and energy that go into this kind of search.

2. Streamlining

Documentation helps prevent bottlenecking and overloading workflows, allowing for the streamlining of work tasks.

3. Consistency

There are many ways to bake a cake. It takes documenting the process and the correct ratios, however, to ensure that it comes out the same way every time. This is especially true if you are handing off the baking duties to someone else. In any workplace environment, in order to achieve results that are consistent and reliable, proper documentation of the process must occur.

4. Avoiding duplication

Having the proper documentation serves to prevent work from being done that has already occurred.

Why is a document important to understand?

Understanding a document is important for the following reasons:

Make sure you are doing it right

Having an understanding of a document helps ensure that you are following a process correctly.

Checking your work

If you work on a process and there is an issue, being able to understand a document is helpful because you can go back to it as a reference and check off the steps in the process retroactively.

Hiring and onboarding

Having an understanding of documentation is important when you bring on new employees. If you have knowledge of the documentation that they will receive when brought on, it will save a lot of difficulty.

An industry example of a document

A company is having some quality issues, and the team leader brings up wanting to have a Kaizen event. One of the employees who has been with the organization the longest says that the company has done something similar in the past. Everyone agrees that it could be beneficial to see what the team did prior to launching the event. Unfortunately, if there is a document that outlines what transpired in the event, the team cannot seem to locate it anywhere. In order to be helpful to the organization should it desire to have a similar event again in the future, the current team leader vows to make sure that there is proper documentation of the Kaizen event that is being planned.

3 best practices when thinking about documents

Here are three best practices to consider when creating documentation at your workplace:

1. Understand your audience

Think about whoever might need to take a look at the document and make sure that it will be clear for whatever audience might utilize it.

2. Be thorough

Do your best to make sure that you have not missed any steps in a process. It can be helpful to read the entire document out loud to yourself to ensure that this is the case.

3. Storage

It is vitally important to make sure that the documentation is easily accessible for whoever may need it in the future.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about documents

Does documentation always need to be followed exactly?

There are some instances where documentation can serve as a guideline instead of a process to follow that is set in stone.

How do I make sure that documentation is always accessible?

Keeping paper copies in files that are easily locatable is very helpful. It is important to also remember that if you are backing them up digitally, you should always keep up to date on changes in technology so that the files can continue to be retrieved regardless of format standard updates that occur over time.

How common is it for information to be difficult to share among colleagues?

Around 60% of employees have shared in a survey that it is difficult to get information from their colleagues.

Documentation is a necessity

Whatever industry you are in, documenting processes and procedures is a necessity. Without it, you can never be truly sure if a process is being done exactly as it was before. By learning to document things properly, you will save yourself and your colleagues a lot of headaches.

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