All organizations have policies, procedures and instructions that govern how work is done. Well written documentation increases organizational transparency. Even where policies and procedures are not written down they exist. Why do we need standardization? - you may ask. My answer is - Why are screw threads and heads always the same size, or why does every retailer use the same shoe sizing system?" Everybody needs a framework to direct them along the right direction and the customer needs assurance about the level of quality which they will receive. So when you consider to prepare your own procedure – go crazy.
The system documentation is a lot like a recipe. You are provided with some information about what you are making, directions on how to make it, and an example of the finished product. Yummy. A procedure specifies what will be done, when, and by whom and what records are to be kept.
Having well-written documentation supports organizational memory. Documentation control systems ensure that the most recent documents are the most relevant, and no one is working on older copies. That is like sending your old girlfriend's Valentine's card to your new girlfriend - with the old girlfriend's name on the inside. Not ideal, is it?
Be smart about the scope of documentation. Travel light. Someone trekking across the desert will benefit from a map, a hat, good boots, and good supply of water. They likely won't make it if they burden themselves with hundreds of gallons of water, a pack full of every piece of survival gear imaginable, and a collection of books about the desert.[i]
Control of documents and records procedure is defined by some basic rules which a documents or records creator needs to follow:
- Be approved
- Occasionally be reviewed and again approved. Blow the dust off, and all that.
- Make sure the documents are kept clean so people can read them. No coffee stains or smartass comments written in the margins. Let’s at least try to appear professional.
Records needs to:
- Be legible (no coffee stains)
- Identifiable (try naming each form something that distinguishes it)
- Retrievable – don’t store them over a pit of ravenous wolves.