I had an interesting conversation with a non-VA coaching client this past week, in which she was extolling the virtues of having well-documented policies and procedures for her business (something you know I was happy to hear!). Then she said, almost in passing, “What I can’t figure out is why, given that I've created the Policies and Procedures, things fall through the cracks.”
I explored that further and found out that she created the P&Ps, but hasn’t looked at them since creating them—three years ago.
My response: "P&P docs do you no good if you don’t look at them." I am nothing if not pithy. ;)
Clearly missing the connection between not using her P&Ps and the things falling through the cracks, she went on to say that as long as things are running well, she doesn’t see the point of bothering with them at all. She knew where they were if/when she needed them and believes that’s enough.
In case you also don’t see the point, my friend, I thought I’d share five of my favorite reasons with you:
1. Things change, all the time. If a vendor changes an interface, chances are something about a procedure will change. If you’ve had to change your password, something in the procedure changes. There are countless ways that things change external to you, and if you’re not in your docs, you wouldn’t notice that something was outdated. And once outdated, they’re really pretty useless.
2. Things need to change, all the time. Well, not ALL the time, but this world of ours moves pretty fast, and being in your docs can show you where things made sense, once upon a time, but no longer do. That provides you with an opportunity to streamline, tighten, enhance, or completely re-do something that exists now. But if you’re not in the docs, you can’t do that—and before long, you’ll be in the “that’s the way we’ve always done it” box.In my view, and to loosely borrow from Socrates, "The unexamined business is not worth owning."
3. You change, all the time. And decisions you make and changes you make to things need to be reflected in the docs. If you’re not in your docs, you wouldn’t notice, and they’d become useless.
4. You forget stuff, all the time. One of the best things a P&P doc can do is remind you of what you need to do, and why. Maybe you need to comply with some regulation as a part of something you do. If that info is in the doc, and you’re looking at it regularly, you don’t forget. But step away from the docs, do a lot of diverse work for a variety of people and projects, throw in some multi-tasking or an overly tight schedule, and you’ll forget the details over time (pretty quickly, actually).
5. Things need to be easier, all the time. If you're growing, the best gift you can give yourself is the gift of ease. P&Ps get stuff out of your head, making it easier to fit more important things in there. P&Ps make it so you don't have to think about what to do--you just look at the appropriate doc and follow along. P&Ps make the complex simple—which is a very good thing. But if you're not in the docs, and they're out of date, when you need them and reach for them, it actually creates more problems rather than creating ease. Choose ease.
And a bonus reason:
6. You could take the unfortunate long vacation (aka, you die), and up-to-date P&Ps will allow whoever comes behind you to carry on while preparing to carry out your last wishes for your work. This can only happen if your P&P docs are up to date, and reflective of your latest and greatest planning and thinking.This holds true as well for when you are ill, take a vacation (one you actually return from), or decide to hand your biz over to someone when it’s time for you to move on to greener pastures.P&Ps make things easier.
While it’s infinitely better to make the docs useful, and actually use them—updating them the second something isn’t as it should be or you want it to be, if you can’t bear to be bothered with it all the time, at least do yourself the huge favor of scheduling a couple of hours once/month to go through them all and to make sure that things still work as you want them to.
If you are a VA, do it for your clients. If you work with a VA, ask her to do it for you, and be sure she knows she has free reign to tell you if she thinks it would be easier or better to change something in some way. If you’re not going to do this yourself, you need someone to do that for you.
P&Ps are great helpers for your business. But like with most things, you can’t neglect them and expect them to serve you well when you end up needing them most, which, whether you know it or not, really is every single day.