Really, is the Operations Manual important?

Following through on the previous article on How to prepare an Operations Manual, we ask ourselves ~> Why should anyone be concerned about an operations manual?

Through years of experience, here at BLEGSCOPE ® we’ve had the opportunity to work with many entrepreneurs and small businesses to help them achieve sustainable growth. Although in the early stages of a start-up, an operations manual may not seem important and if it is prepared, it may not contain a great deal of information, and most times may seem a minor detail; But as your company grows that information becomes a vital resource to the operation of your company. As your company grows, the operations manual also grows to provide a clear picture at all times of your day-to-day operations.

We advise that the heart of a systems-driven company should be your company’s operations manual. The operations manual is the authoritative guidebook of how things are done in your company. It gives you an effective way of communicating policy and procedures, and gives your employees the independence and security they need to operate in their jobs for maximum results. In your company, the operations manual serves as the single-point reference for all important company information. And when used properly, it’s not just a place to go to look for “fixes,” rather it’s the first thing employees familiarize themselves with so they know how things work, right from the start.

It is important that we know that each company is unique in its own way – even if two companies offer the same or very similar products or services, there might be significant differences in the way their operations manuals are executed. The main purpose of your operations manual, however, is not only to describe how each aspect of your company procedures and operations must be executed. It must set the mainframe of rules and regulations that will ensure consistency among all units and it will help your company to reach its full growth potential and success.

Let’s look at the big picture and pinpoint the main purposes of any operations manual:

a)       CONSISTENCY

One of the main purposes of any operations manuals is to create consistency. Consistency is KEY to creating a successful and credible company. If you offer a fast food franchise, you want to make sure your customers will be able to enjoy the same high-quality food and customer service. If you are offering carpet cleaning services, you want to be confident that your customers will work during the same business hours, offer the same type of services, the same applies to manufacturing businesses and so on.

b)      INDEPENDENCE

Your operations manual is the framework that will allow every single unit to work independently. The manual must concentrate on setting the systems and the specifics. Having systems in place for the way every single aspect of your company operates is what allows your business model to be duplicated and thus allows different units to realize their full growth and revenue potential.

c)       TRADEMARK PROTECTION

Intellectual property management is one of the hot issues globally especially with the growing technology and globalization. Regardless of the industry niche, no business owner wants to put their trademark, brand names, company logos, or any other intellectual property material at risk. Your operations manual is the document that must settle this issue in a way that guarantees low or no risk of any intellectual property infringement.

d)      CLARITY

Satisfactorily committing any idea to paper, or to any permanent storage medium, requires more disciplined thought and expression than just talking about it. The reason is that contradictions and omissions are less obvious in the spoken word. Verbal communication depends heavily upon non-verbal cues. Listeners feel a lot of pressure to signal understanding, and speakers are anxious to be agreeable. The written word or flowchart must communicate without that outside help.

e)       TRAINING

There is only so much an individual can retain from instruction, certainly until a new staff has had the opportunity to practice a task. Most people understand this and take notes during oral instruction. Unfortunately, a trainee’s lack of understanding can lead to inaccurate notes, and time constraints can result in incomplete notes. A fairly detailed listing of the elements of a task, developed by someone who understands the objectives and the issues well is a valuable reference when a staff member realizes she/he does not quite remember all of the instructions.

f)        CHANGE AGENT

The only constant is change. An operations manual provides a central place to record new and different information and processes. A particularly valuable contribution of the manual is that the context it gives makes it easier to notice and address additional elements that need to be changed, added, or dropped. Tasks that are no longer necessary or helpful are the biggest time waster in many practices.

g)      ACCOUNTABILITY

An operations manual supports holding all staff accountable. The objective of accountability moves away from blaming a person to correcting a situation. If the problem was a lack of knowledge, the manual is a resource. If the problem was a misunderstanding, that section of the manual needs to be better explained and it may need to be improved. If a new development made an old practice obsolete, the manual needs to be updated everywhere the new development affects operations. There can only be discipline if the manual is clear, correct and current.

All in all, the need and relevance of a simple yet practical Operations Manual can never be overlooked in the path to growth and greater success in any business.

By Brian Ahabwe Kakuru

Brian Ahabwe KakuruBrian is the Managing Director at BLEGSCOPE®, and has over 9 years of management consultancy experience notably in the finance and banking industry, MSMEs, FMCG companies and in the service industry. You can follow him on twitter:@BrianAhabweK

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