Don’t make the mistake of including all your business system in an operations manual. You’ll just end up with a massive manual that no one uses. Give every employee a copy and you’ll not only kill a few trees but everyone will risk back injury trying to use it. With all those systems how is an employee supposed to figure out what their responsibilities are – it is just plain overwhelming.

Instead, create operations manuals that are specific to each employee position in your business. For example, Sales Manager Operations Manual, Roofing Estimator Operations Manual, or Accounts Payable Clerk Operations Manual. These role specific manuals are much more useful.

With role specific manuals each employee clearly knows their responsibilities. They know what tasks are theirs, how to perform them, and what is expected of them. This can make them feel more secure and less stressed in performing their job. It allows them to focus on doing their job well.

Include two types of systems in a role specific operations manual

First, include systems that are only performed by an employee in that position. That is, only one individual is responsible for operating the system from beginning to end. For example, systems that only the Sales Manager does or only the Job Estimator does.

The second type of system to include is cross-function systems. These are systems in which multiple roles are involved in operating the system. The people involved might be within a single department, across departments, or even across companies. Every role involved would have these systems in their operations manual.

What else should be in an Operations Manual?

Consider including company specific information. Think of it from a new employee point of view. What other information would be of value or use to them? How about company background and history, products and services, industry overview, company wide policies and guidelines, mission statement, department listings, information about company founders and current executive.

What should not be in the manual?

Do not include system components such as forms, worksheets, or checklists. Keep these in a readily accessible place where employees can get them as needed. For example, store pre-printed copies in a supply cabinet or print when needed from an on-line library.

Who should have an operations manual?

Every position from President to Janitor should have an operations manual. Every employee, every manager, every executive should have a manual for each role they perform.

How should an operations manual be presented?

Three-ring binders are a good choice for manuals. Since the contents are always being updated a binder makes it easy. Often a single binder can contain both types of systems – it’s just a matter of size. If you use a single binder, separate the systems into the two types. If the manual gets too big then create two manuals for the role, one for each system type.

Besides being a quick reference the role specific operations manual has other benefits. It becomes easier to orient and train new hires. A great deal of the information they need is consolidated into a single source. Role specific manuals protect proprietary company information by not exposing all your secret sauce to every employee, nor putting it at risk of theft or loss.

Good operations manuals alone won’t guarantee their use. They need to be kept reliably up-to-date. Demonstrate their value by referring to them yourself and make sure your managers do as well. Have your employees take part in creating the systems for the jobs they do. When they contribute they feel a sense of ownership and will be more likely to use the manuals.


How to Create Useful Operations Manuals — 1 Comment

  1. Finally, an issue that I am passionate about. I have looked for information of this caliber for the last several hours. Your site is greatly appreciated.

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