Document Your Procedures

I'm in the process of documenting the things I do weekly. Seems like a trivial task at first. Then today I spent an hour documenting, in great detail, my off-site back up system. It didn't take that long because it's complicated; rather, it took a while because I had to actually slow down and think each step through. Steps I take for granted as easy, like creating a disk image, had to be written out step-by-step so someone with less experience with Disk Utility could do it and not goof up.

I've started documenting the process of creating, moving and archiving weekly worship graphics, but that one is so complex to write out (yet so simple for me to do it) that it's going to take a while. It involved 3 computers, an external hard drive and our server. It's really easy for me (I build all the graphics, move them around and archive them in under an hour easily), but it's a ton of steps.

So why document? I can think of a few reasons:

I Won't Be The Last Person To Do This

As much as we'd like to think we're indispensable and  will never leave our current post, the truth is we aren't and we will. Someone else will come behind you and have to figure out what you were doing. It seems like common courtesy to me to help them out. Some would argue that I'm spilling all my intellectual property and giving away all my secrets. Whatever--it's the church--I'm over it.

I Want To Go On Vacation

I like my work, but I don't want to be there 52 weeks a year. So I have a choice; I can figure out how to do 52 weeks worth of work in 49, or hand off 3 weeks worth of work to someone else. I can only do that if I can hand them a document and say, "Do this." If I create those documents now, going on vacation is easier later.

It Forces Me To Think It Through

On more than one occasion, as I'm writing my documentation, an easier way of doing something occurs to me. Sometimes, we start doing something one way because it's expedient, but not efficient. Writing out each painful step of each process gives you the opportunity to examine it and consider why it's there in the first place.

It Helps My Recall

Documentation helps in two ways: First, writing it out drives it deeper into my brain. Second, having it written down means if I forget it, I don't have to re-create the wheel. This is especially helpful for once a year processes. Being able to turn to a page in a notebook saves a lot of those, "Wait, how did I do that last time?" moments.

It Makes My Ministry More Transferable

I really consider what I do ministry. Writing it all down means I can share it with others, or take it with me when I go somewhere else. Someday I'll start a new position in a new church and if I have a whole notebook of documented procedures to start from, I'm half-way there. Modifying existing protocols is easier than starting from scratch. It also makes me a more valuable candidate; if I show up and say, "I have a whole book full of process we can start working on right away," it's a lot more impressive than leading with, "We'll figure it out when I get there."

I truly believe an exercise like this adds a lot of value, both to you and your organization. What processes do you need to document?