Step 4. Assign and define roles with project team members
Now you’ll want to assign and define roles for each key employee. Don’t just think about who is assigned to what task, but ask yourself these kinds of questions:
- Why does each role matter?
- Does one person oversee a group of people?
- Can any small responsibilities be consolidated and assigned to one person?
- Can any large responsibilities be split up between more than one person?
As you start to think more in depth about each person’s role, you may get a better idea of how the documentation process will unfold. With each role having a solid foundation, you may begin noticing where potential bottlenecks might appear or how the team can streamline tasks more efficiently.
Step 5. Define each step, task, and subtask
In step 2, you created an initial process outline with a brief description of each of your process steps and major tasks. Now, you’ll need to define every task or subtask for those steps.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- What is this task?
- Who is responsible for it?
- Are there any resources needed to complete the task?
- Are there common challenges when completing this task? If so, can you list potential solutions?
- Who should this person delegate their task to if they’re sick or on vacation?
- When does this task need to be completed?
Clarify and describe each step and stick to one action for each task and subtask. You can organize your document with bullet points, headings, tables, checkboxes, or different colors and fonts to differentiate each step.
Make sure to add links and other internal or external information that someone would find helpful when they read through your processes. Include anything you think is important but try not to overload your document with hyperlinks.
How to prioritize process tasks
If you aren’t sure how to prioritize different tasks or you feel overwhelmed because everything is just too important, try out the “Eisenhower Matrix” method. Developed by former United States President Dwight D. Eisenhower, this method defines tasks by their urgency and importance.
The Eisenhower Matrix has four ways to help define a task:
- Urgent and important: This task needs to be done now.
- Less urgent but important: This task should be scheduled for completion later.
- Urgent but less important: This task should be delegated to someone else to do now.
- Less urgent and less important: This task can be eliminated.
When it comes to process documentation, the Eisenhower Matrix can help your team understand what is or isn’t a priority, thus increasing productivity, creating better work, streamlining tasks, and reducing stress.
Step 6. Build a process document flowchart
Now that you have all your steps, tasks, and subtasks written down, you can start building a process flowchart—or process map—to help you visualize everything.
It can be as simple or as complex as you want, and some project management software tools can help you get started. Ultimately, the purpose of a process flowchart/map is to provide employees with a general, visual representation of your business processes.
This step is placed near the end of the documentation process so that you don’t have to keep adjusting your flowchart.
Step 7. Review your process and publish at the right time
Before publishing, confirm with all project stakeholders that this new process works for them. Take their feedback into consideration, make adjustments, and don’t be discouraged if you have to start again at step 3 or 4. As the process owner, you’re responsible for letting all stakeholders involved decide that this process will work for them.
If your process document is an update to a procedure or reoccurring project that your team is already in the middle of, don’t introduce the new process right away. Instead, wait until the start of a new quarter or when that project has finished to avoid confusion.
Step 8. Stick to your process, but adapt when necessary
Make sure to stick to your new process document! It won’t help anybody if you put a lot of effort into creating a new process without a team effort to stick to it. Note that this could mean breaking some bad habits or going against the grain of what some employees are used to doing.
However, any process—new or old—will need tweaking at some point. One of the key components of process documentation is that it’s ongoing documentation. So if it’s not providing any benefits, you should absolutely adjust.
If your team has genuine concerns outside some of the general discomfort that comes with change, take some time to identify which processes are or aren’t working. Remember the Eisenhower Matrix if you need help prioritizing tasks in your new version.
Tips on versions
Losing edits during process documentation can make it difficult to understand why you made certain adjustments or if you want to return to an old process. To avoid this, file away every new version of your document and label them appropriately (e.g., version 1.0, 1.1, 1.2). If you’re saving your document on a shared platform like Google Drive, make sure to download and file each new version once you make changes.
If your document is fairly long, you can add a “recently added” or “recently changed” section so that employees know exactly which processes have changed since the previous version.
Lastly, review your process documents about once a year to decide if they need adjusting or not.
Wrapping up: Why business process documentation is important
Internal written processes are vital for businesses to establish consistency and share knowledge among employees. When everyone—from new hires to seasoned employees to upper management—has access to clear, instructional process documents, businesses can run smoothly and efficiently from start to finish.