Archive for Documentation

Templates and Consistency

Have you ever opened a file and it takes you 10 minutes to figure out where the information is that you need? We at Aldridge Kerr recommend that written communication be consistent so that we can find information more easily. In fact, we encourage our Clients to build templates on the various types of documentation they use.

These templates at minimum should include:

  • Email communication
  • Process documentation
  • Appendixes
  • User’s Guides and other training material

Why are templates valuable? They allow the Users to find information more quickly. They provide a structure for documenting like-kinds of information. Also, they create the consistency that is one of the building blocks of operational effectiveness.

Would you like some help building templates to increase consistency within your organization? Contact Charlene Aldridge at 972.447.9787 or CharleneAldridge@aldridgekerr.com to discuss how we can assist you.

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If you prefer a do-it-yourself approach, check out My COO Resources.

Written Procedures Position a Company for Sale

In our most recent newsletter, our guest writer, Dirk Armbrust from The Vant Group, identified several tips on what it takes to prepare to sell a Company. One of those tips was to ensure that a Company has written procedures for its operations.

Aldridge Kerr recognizes it can sound like a broken record when it comes to reiterating the importance of process documentation. But, here is yet another example as to why documentation is so important to an organization: it is needed when a Company positions itself for sale.

Creating procedures that document a Company’s processes can be overwhelming. Therefore, Aldridge Kerr encourages focusing on the top 10 Critical Processes to get started. Unsure how to move forward with documenting your processes? Contact Charlene Aldridge at 972.447.9787 or CharleneAldridge@aldridgekerr.com to discuss how we can assist you.

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If you prefer a do-it-yourself approach, check out My COO Resources.

Requiring Process Documentation

In today’s regulatory environment, almost every industry has requirements related to documenting the organization’s processes. Regardless of whether your industry has yet to require process documentation, getting started will reap the many other benefits for documentation of your processes.

Need help with your process documentation? Contact Charlene Aldridge at 972.447.9787 or CharleneAldridge@aldridgekerr.com to discuss how we can assist you.

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Document processes to identify issues

Documenting an existing process is an excellent method to identify the potential issues within its process steps. As the existing process is documented, consider the following:
• Are the most appropriate Staff performing the steps within the process?
• Is the order of the steps causing inefficiencies, increasing probability of errors, and/or creating confusion?
• Is the process being performed at the appropriate time of day, month, or year?

By documenting how a process is presently being performed, it becomes clearer where there are opportunities for improvements in efficiency and effectiveness.

Need help documenting your processes? Contact Charlene Aldridge at 972.447.9787 or CharleneAldridge@aldridgekerr.com to discuss how we can assist you.

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Minimize Knowledge Gaps

In our most recent newsletter, we discussed how documentation can be a resource to minimize knowledge gaps. Unfortunately, there are circumstances when the internal Expert is unavailable due to illness, death, leaving the Company, etc. Having documentation available for when those circumstances arise can bridge the knowledge gap and avoid disaster.

It can be overwhelming to try to determine what tasks and processes should be documented first to mitigate the risk caused when someone is not available and information is needed. Here are a few tips to consider when determining where to begin:
• Start with your Critical Processes because those processes are most important to your organization’s success
• Document those tasks that are only performed by one person because those are most susceptible to potential loss of information

Contact Charlene Aldridge at 972.447.9787 or CharleneAldridge@aldridgekerr.com to discuss how we can assist you in mitigating the risk related to knowledge gaps.

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Colors and Fonts Enhance Clarity

As we continue our hints on using Standards, consider incorporating the use of colors and/or fonts for specific types of items. Aldridge Kerr, as Documentation Experts, has found this to be an excellent method to increase clarity in written communication.

Examples:

  • Whenever Aldridge Kerr references an item that is electronic in nature, we use a different font to drive home the point. So references to Microsoft Word, or the Internet, or a Shared Server all appear in a distinctive font and are bolded as shown.
  • Whenever we use “example,” we bold it and present it in a red font, as shown above.

Clients have told us on a regular basis how this is helpful when they are reviewing written information. It increases the User’s ability to quickly understand what is being communicated.

Aldridge Kerr can assist you in defining your Standards. Contact Charlene Aldridge at 972.447.9787 or CharleneAldridge@aldridgekerr.com to discuss how we can assist you in improving how you do what you do.

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Hints for Implementing Standards

As you begin to create Standards, there are some hints to consider as they are defined:

  • Create terminology that is easily understood and can be easily incorporated into your organization. In other words, use language that can be adaptable throughout the organization. Avoid terms and phrases that are Functional Area-driven… terms that make sense for an IT shop do not necessarily work well across the organization.
  • Choose one term or phrase and use it consistently. The example we often share is selecting a term to describe someone who works for the organization … there are multiple options for describing them: “Employees,” “Staff,” and “Associates” are all commonly used. However, one term/phrase should be chosen and then used consistently.
  • Consider using specific styles, formats, even colors on certain terms that become the Standard. Example: Whenever we reference our firm, we use a specific font (Peignot Medium) and in the color blue (Aldridge Kerr). The addition of styles, formats, colors, etc. distinguishes that term/phrase even more clearly.
  • We will discuss this further in our next blog.

Aldridge Kerr can assist you in defining your Standards. Contact Charlene Aldridge at 972.447.9787 or CharleneAldridge@aldridgekerr.com to discuss how we can assist you in improving how you do what you do.

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Creating and Maintaining Standards

As we continue our discussion on Standards and how they assist with an organization’s communication, here are some hints to creating and maintaining Standards:

  • First and foremost, define who/what area has responsibility to approve the standardization of any item that will be used for communication across the organization
  • Create a format to compile the information that has been standardized
  • Establish a process for the identification, approval, and notification for any new Standards
  • Maintain a central location that is readily available to all Staff so the Standards can be used for any type of internal or external
  • communication

Standardizing the use of terms and phrases goes a long way in enhancing understanding both internally and externally. Establishing a methodology to identify, create, approve, notify, and maintain Standards is an intricate step in the successful use of Standards within your organization.

Contact Charlene Aldridge at 972.447.9787 or CharleneAldridge@aldridgekerr.com to discuss how we can assist you in establishing the use of Standards within your organization.

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Regulators and Auditors require documented processes

Aldridge Kerr has worked with our Clients for over 17 years, helping them ensure they have well-documented Policies and Procedures because of regulatory requirements. These days, it is difficult to find an industry where there isn’t oversight by some Regulatory Agency. And, then there are the added requirements set forth by internal and/or external Auditors.

All of these regulatory and/or auditing entities are requiring robust Policies and Procedures. In fact, our Clients are regularly reminded by their Auditors: “If it isn’t documented, then it must not exist.” This sends the message that if a process is critical to an organization, it must be documented.

Let Aldridge Kerr assist you in identifying what should be documented to ensure compliance with regulatory agencies and/or auditors. Contact Charlene Aldridge at 972.447.9787 or CharleneAldridge@aldridgekerr.com to discuss how we can assist you in improving how you do what you do.

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Preparing an organization for what’s next

Aldridge Kerr believes there are numerous reasons why documentation is important to an organization. We would like to look further into why documentation positions an organization for what is next.

So, where will your organization be in 5 years? Will it be as it is? Will it be growing? Will it have been bought – or part of a merger?

What we do know is that wherever your organization will be in the coming years, it will get there more effectively and efficiently if there are well documented processes, training tools, and User’s Guides.

If you want to grow, it is difficult to accomplish without Tools available that can assist in the training – and cross-training – of Staff. One of our Clients refers to it as transferring tribal knowledge into a more structured approach to doing business.

If you want to position the organization to sell, it is more valuable if it is clear to the Buyer that the transition can occur more easily because of well-documented Policies and Procedures.

Whatever your plans for your organization, being well documented will help you get there. Aldridge Kerr can assist you with your documentation needs. Contact Charlene Aldridge at 972.447.9787 or CharleneAldridge@aldridgekerr.com to discuss how we can assist you in improving how you do what you do.

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