A month ago, I had a big problem. I wanted to put a document on our website but I didn’t want to create more work for our viewers. I didn’t want to create a page that showed a user a link that they would then have to click to view the document, that’s too many clicks.
I also wanted to be able to use a URL layout that was friendly to the user. One of our other teammates, Alyx, had already tackled this issue before but I wasn’t aware of how. 2 hours after starting the project, I was no closer than when I began. Not ideal.
The next day when Alyx got into the office, I was eager to ask what magical code she had used. Her response was disheartening “Oh, well that page forwards to the document. Don’t quite remember how I did that.” Luckily the second she said “forwards”, I knew that she meant she had created a redirect, something that’s quite easy to accomplish within our site.
Within 10 minutes of her telling me of her methods, I had my page setup exactly how I wanted it. But the fact remained that even though I was aware of the capability, because I was so focused on studying and editing the code to match hers, which was completely irrelevant, I didn’t even recognize the simplicity of what I was trying to do. Because I was so set on doing things “my way” I took 12 times longer than what was necessary accomplishing a simple request. I didn’t want this to happen to anyone else.
Eliminating 12x Problems – One at a Time
Luckily for me I happen to know a company who created an online platform that specializes in documenting issues of this nature (it’s HowFactory by the way, you should check it out. I’ll wait). It was important to me that I didn’t simply create documentation that wasn’t useful or worse yet, would get lost in the daily information overload. So I created 3 objectives.
- Create a process with details that anyone could follow
- Distribute that information to our team (my main focus being someone who had no experience with our site, like one of our interns)
- Test – See how an actual user consumed and applied information, get improvement feedback and see what difference in time there was from my experience and theirs
Creating an Easy to Follow Process Instruction
Where to Start
I began by thinking in steps of a process. If I asked someone to create a redirect, what would the necessary actions be. I broke this down into 4 levels including: Getting to the backend of the site, navigating to the correct section of the dashboard, understanding the section details and making the necessary changes, and finally testing to see if their efforts worked.
Once I figured that out, I needed to add details. I began by clarifying what URL was needed to as a destination.
I then provided details as to what the login screen would look like and what to do if the user ran into any problems such as forgetting credentials.
Once logged in, the user is bombarded with a number of various options to make adjustments to the site. I wanted to make sure that they were able to easily find their next objective and minimize the possibility of them making undesirable edits to our site. I provided instructions, down to the click vs hover actions required to navigate to the correct section of the site.
The next step was to specify how to navigate through the redirect menu and more importantly, how to enter in information correctly to accomplish the task. Here I provided insight about what not to do when editing or creating redirects.
The last instructional section involved testing. I simply put in directions as to how to perform proper testing and what to do when things didn’t go as planned.
Once documentation was complete, I easily shared this information with one of our interns, Rachel, to see how she would handle it.
When I first distributed the new process to Rachel, I was a bit skeptic. The overall task was easy enough but I was interested in getting some feedback as to what could be improved. Expecting to have Rachel in my office within a few minutes with clarification needs, I started working on some lighter material that I could easily jump between…and of course, within 15 minutes she popped her head in. I’ll never forget what she said next.
My response was of confusion.“Wait, what? You can’t be done, that took me over two hours of work to figure out how to do that. Did you test it? Can you show me? Could you do it again?”
“Yes to all of those,” she replied.
In 15 minutes, our intern had both made me feel excellent about our knowledge management system (KMS) capabilities and incompetent.
I think the results pretty much speak for themselves. The requested task was completed by someone completely brand new to the process in 15 minutes vs the 2 hours (or 1/8th of the time) it took to complete by someone who was very familiar with the request.
The difference? I had no direction with what I needed to do, Rachel did. Interestingly enough, our organization is built on the idea that documenting proper procedures and other critical knowledge optimizes the organization’s ability to perform. It wasn’t until I had a tested example, that I discovered the true value for myself.
What does this mean for my team? And What Could it Mean for Yours?
By taking the time (roughly 1 hour for this example) to document this process, I no longer have to be the sole person to handle it…let that sink in for a moment. Before my test, if there was a request to add in a redirect, it fell on me. No matter what my workload was, this task was delegated my way. That’s no longer the case. In fact, anyone on our team can do so by simply logging in to our HowFactory dashboard, searching for the process and completing the steps.
There’s no longer a need for sitting down with someone to show them the proper steps, hoping that they took good notes. There is limited need for follow up, except in rare cases. And most importantly, I have freed up a little bit of my time to focus on what really matters to the success of our team.
Just imagine what I could do if I did this for all of the little tasks. Or better yet, imagine how much more you could get done by following my lead.
Want to know more about my campaign to take my focus time back? Let me suggest you start with learning a bit more about continuous improvement or better yet, reach out to us via our contact page. We’d love to talk.