Prepare By Documenting

No matter how prepared you think you are, it’s essential to be ready for staff changes that can disrupt your organization’s operational flow. People resign suddenly. They develop a debilitating illness. They have family emergencies that take priority.

Are you and your management team prepared for such occurrences? Do you know how to jump in and do the various functions that these people have done well and consistently until they aren’t there to do them?

Over the years, I’ve recommended the importance of documenting key positions so that when this kind of crisis occurs (and yes, it can be a crisis), that you are at least nominally prepared to take over in a pinch.

This is not a job description. It’s an operating manual for the specific function that is currently handled by one or a few people. The goal is to give you coverage in the event of an emergency.

It’s best to have the role defined by the person who is currently in the job. Ask them to write it out as if they were talking someone through the various steps in their position. Then ask them to talk through it to you, and ask questions about anything that is unclear.

This dialogue will flesh out what needs clarification and further details. Remember that the person currently doing the job may do much of it by habit and won’t think about the nuances that you’re seeking in such reporting.

Update these documents once a year as inevitably at least some minor changes will have transpired. When the job turns over, it’s good for the new person to learn the job in part through this document. It will give that person the opportunity to understand it from your company’s perspective and even to offer suggestions for improvement.

Yes, this takes time and can temporarily take away focus from doing the job. But it’s an important insurance policy for the time when you may need details of how to accomplish a task that you or your managers oversee, but don’t do.

Header image by Artem Podrez/Pexels.

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