Thoroughtly Tested and Effective Process for Creating a Procedure Manual

This is simply a guide to be used when creating procedure manuals. I used it many times to create manuals in the corporate environment from 10 to 40 pages in length. The guide is meant to provide a strategic approach to efficiently and accurately creating a procedure manual. To help save you time and work, each step may include a Helpful Hint. Sometimes, based on several factors, you may find it useful to combine or skip certain steps. Customize as you see fit to meet your unique needs.


Much of the interviewing will be done with the Subject Matter Expert or SME. There may be others too who are interviewed to help accumulate information for the procedure manual. For the sake of simplicity, all interviewees involved in this process will be referred to as SMEs.  


1.            REACH OUT to the SMEs indicating you want to work with them to develop their process or product manual. Confirm they will be available during the next 2-4 weeks to ensure you have resources available to help complete the document in a timely fashion. HELPFUL HINT: When scheduling e-meetings during this process, add all tasks and takeaways to the next scheduled meeting notice – this will serve as a reminder on what points to discuss the next time you meet.   


2.            INTERVIEW the SME(s) initially for 30 to 60 minutes to try to gain a high-level understanding of their area, process or product; taking detailed notes during the meeting. Create a descriptive folder name on the local or network drive identifying the process or product. Moving forward, add notes and all documentation to this folder. HELPFUL HINT: During the initial meeting, outline your goals and expectations to your clients at a macro level.  


3.            INTERVIEW the SME(s) again for 60 minutes or so to better understand the process or product.  This could be somewhat conversational and update current notes. HELPFUL HINT: Ideal to meet with the SME(s) as often as possible (especially early on) to gain the necessary understanding and materials to help expedite the document creation.


4.            COMPILE notes immediately after the meeting to help maximize retention. In some situations, you may want to send the notes to the SME for feedback. HELPFUL HINT: Useful to explain to the SME(s) you will update the document and send them a copy at least one day prior to the next meeting. Back and forth feedback and communication will definitely help expedite this process.


5.            After feedback received from SME(s), put together an outline based on your knowledge of the subject.  Send outline to SME(s) for review. HELPFUL HINT: Sometimes, you can combine the basic outline and notes together.


6.            COLLABORATE with SME(s) and get their input on who else should contribute to the document outline. Once outline completed, create the Table of Contents (TOC).


7.            ADD the TOC to the existing procedure manual template being used. Add any notes to the new document.  Using this procedure manual, edit the header, footer, document review and lifecycle, appendix, forms and other miscellaneous updating.


8.            FOCUS on adding narrative to help give this new procedure manual shape and substance. Get additional material through email, chat, phone calls or brief meetings. As you capture more narrative, begin to take notes on what acronyms and terms you’ll eventually need to add to the appendix (Ongoing task at this point). 


9.            Once the majority of narrative is capture and before significant review and editing occurs, DETERMINE if there are any processes (or repeated steps) that need to be documented. If so, capture those processes in the narrative form. HELPFUL HINT: The more thorough and accurate the process narrative is captured, the easier it will be when time to create visual flowcharts (in Visio, if possible).


10.        COMPILE processes and send to SME(s) for feedback.  As you create the process narrative, ask the SME(s) for any control points, notes or “risks” associated with each process. Include in process narrative.  Also, include responsible party for each process step if applicable. HELPFUL HINT: Collaborative and ongoing task.  Documenting the risks or potential pain points are useful to capture for compliance or auditing purposes.


11.        MAKE editing changes, review and develop document. This is done after receiving SME(s) feedback on process narrative. Continue to add acronyms and terms to appendix.  HELPFUL HINT: Last minute editing and review may occur here.


12.        FINISH process narrative and create corresponding flowcharts. Flowcharts should generally reflect process narrative but not always verbatim. All notes and controls points need to be included in flowcharts. Also, include responsible party for each process step if applicable. Copy flowcharts and notes to procedure manual and ask SME(s) to review document one more time. HELPFUL HINT: Last minute editing and review may occur here. Documenting the risks or potential pain points are useful to capture for compliance or auditing purposes.


13.        MAKE any last minute changes. Send to final reviewer copying all necessary Program or Product Managers.


14.        MAKE any suggested changes from final reviewer. Save both the procedure manual and flowcharts into the PDF format. Add final document to SharePoint site.