Your policy and procedures manual as software

Jared Spool tweeted this morning:

HyperCard was a hypertext program that came with Apple Macintosh in the 1980s. It allowed you to create “stacks” of online cards, which organsiations used to create some of the first online guides. It also contained a scripting language called HyperTalk that a non-programmer could easily learn. This meant HyperCard could do more than just display content: it could be used to create books, games (such as Myst), develop oil-spill models, and even dial the telephone.

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How do you measure the effectiveness of operations manuals and other procedures documents?

When reviewing an organisation’s procedures documents, there are a number of key factors we look at. These relate to the value of the document itself, how it is structured and the clarity of the content (i.e. the words and sentences).

One way to rate these factors is by a simple red, amber, green traffic light system. Using this approach means the key areas of concern can be highlighted to everyone involved in the project. Red indicates an area of high concern, amber indicates medium concern and green indicates no change is needed. Here is an example below:

How do you assess organisational operations and procedures documents?

Creating franchise operations manuals that are customisable and controlled

Creating an operations manual is a key part of franchising any business, as it helps ensure each franchisee is operating in the way that made the original, franchised, business successful in the first place. You want reliable, repeatable, consistent performance from every franchised location.

However, it’s often the case that there needs to be slight variations between each franchised location. The challenge is, how can this be reflected in the operations manual?

For example, let’s say a company called Doner-Summa decides to franchise its business selling turkish doner pizzas and have franchises in Leeds (in the UK) and Dublin (in Ireland). It wants to have standard operating procedures in the case of a fire, but it has the challenge that the layout of each store is different, as is the emergency telephone number between the two countries.

The solution is to create a franchise operations manuals where certain sections are controlled centrally by the franchisor, and where other sections can be customised to reflect the particular situation of each franchisee:

When the Leeds branch adds its content to its operations manual, it contains important and specific information relevant to their situation. In this case, the location of the fire alarms and the evacuation point:

The Dublin branch operations guide looks similar, but the building diagram and the emergency number are different:

With this approach, Doner-Summa has not passed over all control of the manual to the franchisees. It still has the ability to make iterative improvements to the processes and procedures from the centre.

Let’s say, for example, Doner-Summa discovers the procedure states people should contact the operator, when they should contact the fire brigade. It can make a change to the centrally controlled core procedure, and this change will auto-magically be inserted into all the franchisees’ versions of the guide.

Change made to the core procedure here:

Results in the franchisees operations manuals being automatically updated to reflect the change:

Of course, any printed versions of the operations guide will only be updated when a new version of the guide is printed out by the franchisee. However, it’s possible for an automatic notification email to be sent out to every franchisee whenever the core content has been amended. Also, any online or  tablet versions of the manual will have been updated in real time.

Note: Turkish pizzas do exist in Germany. They are donor kebabs wrapped in a burrito-type bread instead of pitta bread. Doner-Summa is not meant to reflect any existing business with the same or similar name.