When you regard continuous improvement as a mindset, rather than just a procedural practice, you realize it has a much wider set of applications.
For most of us, it’s clear that improvements to standard operating procedures (SOPs) directly improve efficiency. However, all too often we focus on what’s being said and not how we’re saying it. But there’s no reason that you shouldn’t eliminate written waste and become lean with your instructions as well.
Below, we outline a handful of traits that quality technical documents should have and how better writing can increase your efficiency.
Be Overly Thorough
When done properly, well written technical documents can speak for themselves. This means that managers or engineers won’t have to spend as much time training new employees or putting out metaphorical fires. With thorough and clear technical documentation, your employees will become more self-reliant and efficient by being able to utilize your work instructions as their main source of information.
"Poorly written instructions require time from managers to explain."
Typically when text is confusing, employees will default to asking unnecessary or redundant questions. In other words, poorly written work instructions require time from managers to explain them and time from employees to decipher them. Lean documents are those that eliminate unnecessary processes (waste) like confirming what an instruction is supposed to mean or asking for further clarification on a procedure.
Great technical documents are not only easy to read by industry experts, but are also accessible to readers with less background knowledge.
By writing to accommodate those slightly outside your target audience, you will find your documents to be more accessible to people outside the field as well as the experts. This is important because when you open up to a slightly wider audience, you will have more opportunities for feedback and continuous improvement of the processes themselves.
Just like digestible foods are easy for our bodies to process, digestible documents are easy for our minds to process. In essence, creating a document that is optimally formatted and structured allows readers to efficiently intake the information.
When we create technical documents that are difficult to digest, we open up the possibility that readers will miss crucial information by skimming or getting lost in text. Improving technical documentation, so that it has logical organization and flow, will decrease the likelihood that readers will commit errors.
Effective work instructions are ones that are standardized across your company. This means that style, formatting, and information are organized in a consistent manner for all technical documentation.
"Creating documentation with logical organization and flow decreases the likelihood that readers will commit errors."
Work instructions don’t just standardize work, they also prevent accidents. Enforcing this consistency gives your team members the information they need to be safe and remain effective workers.
Always Be Improving
Improving your writing is a fluid process, and there’s no single “best way” to communicate. The important takeaway is to recognize that technical documentation is a form of communication that requires scrutiny like any other.
Incorporating this mindset into your work instructions will allow you to eliminate communication inefficiencies and reduce written waste.
Interested in more on this topic? Check out our free workshop on better writing.