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© Transition Support  Last Edit 12/12/2022 16:38:07 

What should be documented?

There has to be a limit on what you document. At school we are taught reading, writing and arithmetic so documents should not attempt to define how these activities are performed. But it depends on what you are trying to do. The documents in regular use need only detail what would not be covered by education and training. A balance should be attained between training and procedures. If you rely on training rather than employing documented procedures, you will need to show that you have control over the quality of training to a level that will ensure its effectiveness. We expect staff to know how to do the various tasks that comprise their trade or profession, how to write, how to design, how to type, answer the telephone, how to paint, lay bricks etc. You may feel it necessary to provide handbooks with useful tips on how to do these tasks more economically and effectively and you may also use such books to bridge gaps in education and training but these are not your procedures. If you need something to be done in a particular way because it is important to the outcome, the method will need to be documented so that others may learn the method.

You can combine several procedures in one document, the size of which depends on the complexity of your business. The more complex the business the greater the number of documents. The more variations in the ways that work is executed, the larger the description of management system will need to be. If you have a small business and only one way of carrying out work, your system description will tend to be small. Your management system may be described in one document of no more than 30 pages. On the other hand a larger business may require several volumes and dozens of documents of over 10 pages each to adequately describe the system.

Documents describing some aspect of the system go by different names e.g.

  • Acceptance criteria
  • Codes of practice
  • Conditions of sale
  • Contracts
  • Control procedures
  • Drawings
  • Guides to best practice
  • Methods of measurement
  • Objectives
  • Operating procedures
  • Policies
  • Plans
  • Process descriptions
  • Recipes
  • Records of activities
  • Records of achievement
  • Reports
  • Requirements
  • Standards
  • Standard operating conditioins
  • Work instructions

Control procedures need to be user-friendly and so should be limited in size. Remember you can use other documents such as guides, standards, and operating procedures to extend what you have written in the control procedures. The procedures should not, however, be so short as to be worthless as a means of controlling activities. They need to provide an adequate degree of direction so that the results of using them are predictable. If you neglect to adequately define what needs to be done and how to do it, don't be surprised that staff don't know what to do or constantly make mistakes. It is also important to resist the desire to produce manuals that are impressive rather than practical. Printing the documents on expensive paper with coloured logo does not improve their effectiveness and if they are not written simply and understood by a person of average intelligence, they will not be used.



Business processes