It’s As Easy As 1,2,3: Process Documentation and You

By semantic standards, process means movement in a physical or a mental sense. Ontological arguments can take place at the same time a sandwich is being made. If we want to be simplistic, we can say that one part of processing is making steps and the second part is adhering to steps. It sounds a bit militaristic, or maybe regulated is the better word, because order informs it — then again, order informs most things.

Why Do We Need Process?

Most everything follows a process, including us, and though the steps can be different, the act of creating a plan stays quite the same. We need a purpose behind it, or the steps risk not making any sense. It is as if we start running a race from one place to another and have no idea why we need to finish it. A reward? Esteem? Maybe we happen to be looking for a change in our exercise routine, the higher the octane the more justified, and implementing order risks an onset of anhedonia. We spurn spontaneity for reasons no more interpretable than why we have a compulsion for order.

In some fashion, though our judgment is often as fickle as our choice of style, we know what order provides us, what it halfway guarantees if we can sort out the other half with magical thinking. Free of charge, save, possibly, mental, we get stability, clarity, familiarity, etc., all of which are applicable to business and, should we get microscopic, documentation.

What Does Process Documentation Entail?

Business does not exclusively own these types of documents, and the fact that I am about to quote from Indeed amounts to a looser association with bureaucracy than you might expect. Indeed lists case studies, checklists, policies, process maps, and tutorials as part of its definition of process documentation. These examples have similar genre characteristics, such as step-by-step organization, explanatory language and transitions, simple layout, and an aim toward leaving the document to go and carry out its directions. Novels are designed to be the center of our attention, and process documentation is only one step that precedes the other steps. As far as intricate prose goes, the style will feature intricate detail, less Dickensian than technical and of a didactic tone it takes a certain type of novelist to pull off.

It is not too big a stretch, then, to assume technical writers are the right type for the job. You and a French dictionary can probably get part of the way through translating an article in Le Monde, but a native English speaker who also happens to know French will finish the job in half the time.

Still, there are things to be done that go beyond the writing. Depending on the type of process documentation you’re making, you may need a team — at the least, a couple of people — that focuses on coordination and disaster prevention. You need a lead role, a manager, to keep it all in order, and by all, I mean the workload, the productivity, the deadlines, and the morale. In the instance that that person is not also organizing and writing the documents, other roles should be assigned.

Documentation In The Workplace

Yolanda Lau of the Forbes Human Resources Council refers to this set-up as having a “documentation-first mindset” that involves “preparing and regularly updating documentation in advance” of, in her example, onboarding new employees. Published last year, her article is titled “Remote Work: Creating A Documentation-First Culture” and explores the possibilities of translating in-person experiences to remote meetings.

It seems that experience can be misrepresented and has become, in fact, shorthand for wonder and a good time. Few people, unfortunately, see flipping through a pile of policies as an experience worth repeating, so it ought to be a given that sometimes, experience is boring. Ms. Lau refers to the experiences where employees read the company manuals on how to use their computers or, if the company has purchased Microsoft Office, how to input different formulas into Excel spreadsheets.

Ms. Lau is similarly fond of “project-based organization” as a term that triggers a particular buzz for the productivity minded. Essentially, it involves what we have already covered, meaning the collaboration that must take place to see the work come together cohesively. She prefers “project-based” to “role-based,” a distinction in focus, specifically a central focus, a bit like a New Year’s resolution. Her preference does away with a rote emphasis on duties and reinvigorates the workplace with a common goal that could change per quarter.

Personally, I think a mix is necessary, same as for leadership styles, but nonetheless, a culture that values projects also values efficiency and commitment, the latter a good one-word description of process documentation.

We’re The Team For You!

Unsurprisingly, process documentation needs a process of its own, and if you are having any trouble with figuring out parameters or how to better optimize the routines you have in place, then you can drop us a line. Want a few technical writers? We have plenty, and on top of that, we have experience: 34 years of it.

Whether you need a team of consultants to produce a complete line of documentation or a single technical writer for a brief project, Essential Data’s Engagement Manager will lead the project from start to finish. At Essential Data Corporation, the quality of our work is guaranteed. Contact us today to get started. (800) 221-0093 or sales@edc.us

 

By Will Boswell

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