Project managers verbalize the big picture in a project plan. This high-level document covers the scope and requirements. Alone it doesn’t answer all questions so the plan is complemented by subsidiary plans. Project teams manage their work through a set of formal planning documents. They cover details about department functions. Scheduling, staffing, cost, quality, risk, acceptance and communications functions are created as subsidiary plans.
I recall only a few times in the last decade when a project required a documentation plan. Depending on whether technical documentation falls under marketing or R&D will determine who manages documentation planning.
The process map is an information type in the Information Mapping Method. Similarly, SIPOC is a tool from the Define and Measure phases of a Six Sigma project. SIPOC takes its name from Suppliers, Inputs, Process, Outputs, and Customers. These segments in the process map define where a process starts and ends. Here I’m going to show how the SIPOC tool is used to write process documentation. This is a quick exercise that serves process improvement.
- ID the process. Name the key point. What does it do? What is its purpose?
- ID the outputs. What happens, whether desirable or not. What are the deliverables, outcomes, and results.
- ID the customers. Who becomes the recipient? Think ‘voice of the customer’ and whether the customer is internal or external.
- ID the inputs. What series of events causes or triggers a process? Are they manual? Automatic?
- ID the suppliers. Who provides the resources? People? Systems?
SIPOC templates are readily available to help you sketch out this info using a particular flow. Or make your own template:
- Hold a piece of paper horizontally and fold it in fives.
- From left to right title each folded column, one letter per column, S-I-P-O-C.
- Then working in reverse from right to left identify the Suppliers, Inputs, Process, Outputs, and Customers.
An operations manual is a 24/7 reference tool. It helps guide someone unfamiliar with your business through the day-to-day operating procedures. In 1958 McDonald’s Corporation created a 75-page operations and training manual. It specified how each menu item should look—french fries cut exactly 0.28 inches thick, hamburgers placed on the grill in six neat rows.
Fast forward fifty-plus years where fast food cooking instructions are designed into kitchen equipment. Crew members rely on panels of images. Instructions that must be printed are written at a fifth grade reading level in English and a second language.
Your operation functions without you
To transform the production-line prototype, redesigned kitchen equipment had to be intuitive. R&D obliged by developing cookers that work only one way. The easier equipment is to use, the easier it is for global fast-food restaurants not to have to train workers. Recognizing high turnover within fast food establishments, fast food execs aimed for “zero training” as documented in Fast Food Nation.
This topic raises a question about common usage.
In my world, an addendum, like an appendix, is a supplement to a book. Publications may conclude with several of these add-ons but not usually in combination. So what is acceptable usage when a book contains more than one addendum or appendix – Addenda? Appendices?
Conversationally, this sounds pretentious if not passé. It took a short twenty years for appendixes to become the preferred term. Updating the style guide neither hastens a term’s use nor demise.
I turn to Merriam-Webster for guidance. The dictionary recognizes the use of addendums but keeps silent on whether that form is correct. Answers.com says addendums is an acceptable plural.
These days when I hear appendices and especially indices the words ring like nails on a blackboard. (Does anyone even know what a blackboard is?) Addendums will become generally accepted no doubt. A living language gets tweaked every day.
This month marked the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 13 mission. Whether you watched the PBS documentary or the Hollywood version, the story was gripping. Yet, the life-saving manual seemed easy enough to use. Nothing fancy. The neatly typed document included handmade graphs, penciled in symbols, and annotations by James Lovell, Jack Swigert, and Fred Haise. The crew journeyed to the moon, almost, and back using less computing power than an iPhone. The 345 page Mission Operations Report compiles reports from a dozen mission officers.
Hearing that educated women have fewer healthier children seems questionable sure, but the reporter understood the subject’s context. This Q&A is from an article in Rotman Magazine, an interview with economist, Michael Spence.
Q Why is it so important for developing countries to focus on educating young girls and integrating them into the labour force as a way to break intergenerational cycles of poverty:
A Educated women have fewer, healthier children; they have them later in life…
The comma means ‘and’; fewer and healthier children, no question.
Report style v Q&A style
The Global Health Council addresses the same subject in a report on Girls’ Education: A Self-Sustaining Investment in Children’s and Women’s Health.
- Delay marriage and first pregnancy
- Have fewer low-birthweight babies and healthier newborns
- Have smaller families
Same issue. Different presentation style. Know the context. Say it right.