Our consulting partnership, SIMI, recently went through a significant change. One of the founding members left to pursue a new opportunity. Working as partners for five years, we had naturally fallen into a pattern of knowing who covered what and had complete faith that the other would fulfill their tasks and obligations.
Now venturing alone, I had to quickly figure out how to close any knowledge gaps. And suddenly I was following the advice I give my clients; creating a “Processes and Procedures” manual to document each step of every process critical to the business.
Three Key Benefits
Going through this exercise has multiple benefits. The first and most obvious benefit is that the exercise reduces the likelihood of missing a step. Certainly, until tasks become habits, following written instructions might take more time but require less effort in memory recall.
The second benefit comes from the deliberate review of a process. When we break down a task into steps, there is an opportunity to re-evaluate the effectiveness of the current process.
Recently, I saw a great example of this in an office. The doctor wanted to know the reason for any cancellations on any given day. However, to get to this information displayed in the EMR, the office created a process that required many unnecessary steps. The benefits of knowing the reason for the cancellation did not outweigh the steps it took to create this transparency! And by adding so many additional steps, there was a lot more room for error. Moving forward, it was decided that staff would rebook or create an appropriate recall in the EMR for any cancellations or rebooks. As well, a daysheet would be printed at the beginning of the day – and a quick note would be added beside a patient who cancelled so the doctor could refer to it later.
A third benefit to creating this manual is for onboarding and training purposes. As I went through the exercise of learning new things myself, I understood the value of written documentation first hand! Having a reference guide provides a reassuring sense of security. In a small organization it’s easy to fall into the trap of having just one person handle a certain task in the office.
I remember clearly an incident that happened when I was an optometric assistant many, many years ago. I came down with a stomach flu. I could barely walk without feeling like I wanted to pass out. One of the doctor’s I was working with at the time called and begged me to come in. I was the only one in the office at that time that could do OHIP billing and submission (think paper files and minimal electronic support – gasp!). In hindsight, creating a step by step instruction sheet for this process would have made it possible for another employee to step in with confidence.
How to Start
While creating a Processes and Procedure manual is not a small project , it’s an essential undertaking for the benefit of your practice. Start my making a list of every single task that is done in the office – from answering the phone and the greeting you expect, to how to how to order products. Have the team member currently responsible for the task, write out their current step by step process. Together, review each one for efficiency opportunities.
This will be time well spent and benefit your practice in all the years to come.
is the co-founder and managing partner of Simple Innovative Management Ideas (SIMI) Inc. and expert Practice Management contributor for Optik magazine. She can be reached at email@example.com.