Business process documentation is often the task that everyone needs to do, but no one wants to do. Find out how to make it easy with this expert four-step process.
Adi Klevit is a legend in the world of process.
As a trained Industrial Engineer and the co-founder of the Business Success Consulting Group, she’s spent more than two decades helping businesses of every size and shape scale and grow their results by implementing efficient systems and processes.
And while that may sound like a red-tape task only big multinationals need to worry about, process documentation is something all businesses should prioritize. Because if your processes aren’t streamlined, data shows you could be losing over 30% in revenue every year due to hidden gaps and inefficiencies.
We sat down with Adi to dissect her expert process for creating, distributing, and leveraging processes to scale your business.
This is one you don’t want to miss!
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What’s inside this interview:
- Changing mindsets and prioritizing business process documentation
- Step 1: Segment your departments and pick one to focus on
- Step 2: Document your chosen department’s processes from beginning to end
- Step 3: Share your knowledge through the process
- Step 4: Review and revise regularly
- Six bonus pro tips for effective process planning
Changing mindsets and prioritizing business process documentation
When you first start your process documentation journey, the road ahead looks long. (We’re talking Route 20 long )
Even if you’re someone who is super organized by nature, when it comes to introducing processes into your business, the temptation to ‘skip that part’ is very real.
Adi believes the reason most people put process documentation last on their to-do list has everything to do with personality, preference, and good old-fashioned resistance to change.
“As entrepreneurs, the last thing you want to do is sit down and write procedures — it seems like a mundane, boring task. But you have to be involved in the project. And you have to apply it and maintain it as part of your life, instead of chasing the next shiny object.”
So when Adi is faced with a Visionary or CEO who says, “My processes can’t be documented, because I do things differently,” she knows she has all the knowledge, skills, and tools to prove that — even in the most unique or creative industry — process documentation creates more room for innovation, not less.
Once a business leader arrives at that realization, Adi is on hand to help. Here’s how she and her team take the decidedly unsexy task of SOP documentation and transform it into a simple four-stage journey to process perfection.
At Whale, we’ve seen companies document processes faster and onboard new employees like clockwork in less than four weeks. Learn more about how we make process documentation easy.
Step 1: Segment your departments and pick one to focus on
To begin, map out all of the departments that contain your core processes. “
Identify which area in the company to start with by asking ‘What area of the business — if processes and procedures were well-documented — would I get the biggest return on investment from?'” suggests Adi.
In her experience, the most popular core departments to focus on are Business Development, HR, Finance, Customer Service, Sales, Operations, and Marketing.
From here, you have to choose which department (or board if you’re using Whale) to run with first. While many leaders immediately look to Sales as the first place to start, Adi recommends taking a more careful approach to deciding what ROI means to you.
For example, if you’re strapped for time and working 20-hour days, you may want to focus on an area that will free you up to work more sustainably instead of lining your pockets.
Once you’ve decided what your ROI on business process documentation will look like, the next question to ask is “What is the outcome that you want to gain from documenting these processes?”. For experts like Adi, process documentation isn’t just about how you get things done. The way she sees it, why a process exists is just as important as the process itself.
Her advice is to ask yourself what you want:
- More customers?
- More bottom line?
- Greater employee retention?
- More efficiency?
- More time?
“Understanding that ‘why’ is very, very important — what are we going for?” Adi explains.
Armed with a clear definition of ROI and outcomes, you’re ready to put the rubber to the road with step two.
Step 2: Document your chosen department’s processes from beginning to end
Now you’re ready to start mapping the process.“
I start from the top-down,” explains Adi. “First, I break down that board into a process. Then I create a library containing the main chunks of that process.”
By breaking departmental processes down into bite-sized chunks that she and the team can visualize, it quickly becomes easier to define the specific steps and team members involved in each singular process.“
Next, I take each library and ask, ‘How do we get from point A to point B for this particular library?’ Then I break it down into the steps, which will be the playbook. Finally, we assign different playbooks to different team members to start writing those process cards.”
“Poor process management means an estimated 60% of skilled worker time is lost to coordination.”
And this is where the Whale magic happens, making it easier than ever for Adi to create simple, easy-to-use process plans everyone in the company can follow.
Once Adi has mapped out her Boards, Libraries, and Playbooks, she takes the following steps to make sure the team follows through on documentation:
- Assign a key stakeholder to each of the steps in the process (a.k.a. Cards if you’re a Whale user).
- Start documenting. Adi and her team will interview key stakeholders and either write the documentation or coach them on how to do it themselves.
Because she has already identified the topic areas such as ‘sales process’, etc. as her libraries, as well as the singular processes, or playbooks, within the chosen department (e.g., ‘customer onboarding’), Adi and her team now know precisely which gaps in the process need to be filled and which members of the team need to write those processes.
Step 3: Share your knowledge through process
The next task is to get that knowledge out to your teams and the people who use these processes daily. “
We work with companies that have key employees or owners that want to get all of their knowledge out of their head and documented, so we do a knowledge transfer,” Adi explains.
She knows that if a company is successful, they probably already have processes in place to some degree. Her role is to elevate those processes by simplifying and documenting them — then testing the actual delivery and implementation of that knowledge with the rest of the team. “
One client expanded his business by hiring two more account managers. Once he had well-documented processes and procedures, he was able to bring everything and everyone up-to-speed in a fraction of the time,” explains Adi. “He’s using the checklists and playbooks we wrote to manage personnel and ensure they’re effective, efficient, and actively achieving their targets.”
Adi believes that to excel at knowledge transfer, it’s crucial to focus on formalizing the process, regularly training staff, and last but not least — making it accessible for your employees.
Here’s how she makes that happen.
Adi’s 8 Tips for Effective Knowledge Transfer
- Establish clear objectives
- Assign ownership
- Get cross-departmental input
- Make each step measurable
- Ensure processes are repeatable
- Set up necessary training
- Test the processes to work out any bugs
- Adjust as needed]
When scaling a company, extracting and documenting the golden nuggets from your process is vital. But it’s all for naught if the team can’t actually access and apply that information.
As part of her service, Adi also offers a coaching option for management. Because the struggle to motivate employees to implement processes is no joke. And, as Adi rightly reminds us, “Well-documented processes are only as good as the number of employees they are followed by.”
Step 4: Review business process documention and revise regularly
After documentation and knowledge transfer, Adi carries out an initial review with peers and/or the leadership team.
Before leaving a team with its brand new set of shiny processes, she wants to set a clear precedent that there is no such thing as ‘set it and forget it’ process management.“
The processes and procedures that are written need to be reviewed and revised on an as-needed basis and also after a set amount of time, to ensure they’re current,” she explains. And it’s not just something for the CEO or Head of Ops to think about.“Everybody should participate in the process of reviewing it,” Adi says.
For her, mapping, documenting, and sharing your processes is key to elevating revenue, saving time, and retaining your best talent. But, those aren’t one-and-done tasks.
With Whale, her clients can easily schedule Expert Reviews to ensure their internal subject matter experts regularly keep processes updated.
Six bonus pro tips for effective business process documentation
If you’ve followed the above steps, you have process planning down to a science — well done!
But Adi’s advice doesn’t stop there.
Over two decades in the industry means she’s got more than a few pro tips up her sleeve. Here are some of the more nuanced tactics Adi shared with us to help take your process documentation to the ace level.
If you run on EOS®, make process a rock.
“Companies that run on EOS make process a rock. They choose a process for the quarter, and they make it happen. When you set a rock, you actually have to be on track and meet it, and it will be there to discuss every meeting if it doesn’t move forward.”
Have a purpose and use it as a KPI.
“Have a purpose. Know why you’re doing it. Choose to start in an area that will make the biggest difference and that you are enthusiastic about.”
Whether your ‘why’ is freeing up more time, gaining clients, or increasing revenue, make sure you position your company as one of only 4% who measures how successful your process is.
- Use a project management tool.
“Run it as a project and use a project management tool like Asana, Monday, or ClickUp to break it down. Identify the area, assign someone to write the playbooks, assign a due date and have somebody manage the project.”
- Find your tone of voice.
“You have to write processes and procedures with the voice that matches your culture and who you are. Don’t write dry standard operating procedures if you’re this hip company. Make sure everything matches your branding, core values, and who you are.”
- Balance your Visionary and Integrator.
“In EOS terms, you have a Visionary and an Integrator. The yin and the yang that work together. With solely one or the other, we’d get nowhere. The Integrator manages the project. And the decision-maker, the Visionary, has to have the vision that the company is going to be run on processes.”
“My clients document everything in Whale”
The way experts like Adi see it, process is the cornerstone of any successful company. So for her, when companies make excuses about deferring process creation, she knows it’s not really about lack of time. “It’s a lack of willingness to apply what they created.”
Because, let’s face it — applying processes where you haven’t previously isn’t the most natural thing to do. It takes some getting used to.
That’s where the right process documentation platform can help.
If Adi had her way, writing business process documentation would always be done using Whale. And she isn’t just talking about large, well-established companies. “
Everybody should use this tool. Because otherwise, you’re going to write all of these processes on Word documents that are scattered all over. It doesn’t have uniformity of formatting because everybody formats differently. There is no order or organization, and they’re hard to find,” explains Adi.
She’s seen firsthand how quickly employees will abandon processes that they can’t find. But with the right platform giving traction to your SOPs, that’s never an excuse. “Whale makes your processes very accessible, easy-to-find, search, use, maintain versions, assign owners, and review. From the start, you’re building the company with a great foundation.”
Looking for a way to systemize your business process documentation and leverage your SOPs easily?