Documenting Processes…For Better or Worse

I recently had dinner with a colleague, and she commented on how she has made a living by documenting processes within companies. She is a training and computer interface designer yet she can’t do her job without documented processes. How do you create a training program without content? How can you configure a system to help automate a process if it’s not documented?

First step…always document. People don’t like to document. I don’t know if it conjures images of third grade grammar class where they had to stay after school to bang erasers if they couldn’t remember the difference between they’re, their and there. But, people don’t like to document. If it’s in their heads, they think they’re golden and don’t have to type anything on their PC over there. Mrs. Gorski would be so proud!

I think this is a key contribution a Knowledge Management professional can play if she chooses. Think about it…how can you improve what you don’t know how it operates today? How can you automate what is manual if you can’t see it? How can you share what is not known? It all starts with processes and the documentation of those processes.

Process documentation is a form knowledge management. Processes are artifacts and assets of a company. They don’t have to be complicated; they just have to be known to share, improve, automate and re-engineer. It is our baseline…our beginning.

Doggie Paddling to Stay Afloat

As recent as last year or last month, companies were working hard to implement SharePoint and the latest, greatest social tools. However, today, these capital investments are hard to come by in most companies. For those of us in the boat of status quo – doggie paddling to stay afloat – what can we do to outlast disappearing programs, shelved technology implementations and suspended initiatives?

Dog in WaterMaximize current technology.

“Make due with what you have.” Leverage current investments.” “Maximize our current toolset.” How many of you have heard these very statements? As old or clunky as it might be, it’s time to be creative and figure out how to make incremental changes with what you have. Some of us are lucky to have SharePoint; others are still struggling with out-dated Notes Databases and prehistoric Document Management Systems that stifle collaboration instead of enabling it. (Anyone in this boat with me?)  However, there are ways to work with your IT group to customize these things. I know…”customize” is a terrible word. But, using IT to customize existing technology vs. implementing new technology is sometimes an easier pill to swallow. I have found the word “new” is scary right now even if it is “better”…at least for now.

Dust off your process maps (or create them!).

I have always thought that I could never make true process improvements without better technology. While I still believe this is true to some extent, there are opportunities to create processes that have never existed before (with or without technology) and streamline existing ones by focusing on the people in the equation. I was so caught up in implementing social tools (that ended up being shelved) that I neglected the fact that we have no great way to vet our “best” content. Would new technology make that easier? Yes! But, let’s get back to defining what we hold up as our “best” work and decide who will make that decision. Both processes take human thought not capital dollars.

Partner with the other “under the gun” support functions to create a cohesive strategy.

Unfortunately, in tough times, turf wars can happen. Instead of fighting for corners of an organizational strategy, work together to co-create one strategy that serves everyone’s interests and divide roles and responsibilities accordingly. Learning, Knowledge Management and Internal/Employee Communications need to work together for the survival of all. For years, I have been collaborating with these two groups but so many others I have spoken to have never discussed a single program with them. It’s time to stop defending your turf and embrace the entire landscape as a team.