In a past life, I interned at a fashion company. And at the tender age of 19, it was my first introduction to the working world.
But my time there was largely spent in a state of bewilderment, wondering what tasks I should be focusing on, what the right processes for those tasks were, and what a successful end-result for those tasks would look like. (This company was part of the 22% that have no onboarding program.)
And because the team was always out of the office – attending photoshoots, meeting brands and retailers, going for their 17th coffee of the day at over-priced (and mediocre) cafés in London’s East End – it meant I was often alone in the office, wondering what the hell to do.
Unsurprisingly, the company went bust in 2019.
If they’d have had an operations manual or some operations manual templates, however, I would’ve been able to complete a ton of work while they were focusing on other parts of the business. That’s because an operations manual contains information about the company, the company’s hierarchy, roles and responsibilities, business policies, and key facts regarding processes and procedures.
Don’t let your business fall into the same trap as the now-defunct fashion company.
Create, implement, and audit an operations manual.
In this post, I’ll further define what an operations manual is and the benefits of having an operations manual. To boot, I’ll provide you with a host of nifty operations manual templates, and tell you how Process Street can aid you with your manual!
Read the following sections to get clued up:
- What’s the operations manual definition?
- The benefits of having an operations manual
- 7 (free!) superpowered operations manual templates
- Use Process Street to take full control of your operations!
Or, if you just wanted the templates, grab them here:
- Operations Manual Template
- Checklist for Writing an Operations Manual
- Internal Audit Procedure for an Operations Manual
- Process Library Checklist
- The Process for Optimizing a Process
- ISO 9000 Structure Template
- ISO 9001 Internal Audit Checklist for Quality Management Systems
In fact, here’s a sneak preview of the templates that you’ll be getting for free!
Let’s get started, shall we?
What’s the operations manual definition?
An operations manual (also known as an operating manual or a procedure manual) is a document that contains key information about a business and how it operates. The manual is created specifically for its employees, providing them with a resource to refer to when in doubt about who to contact, how to go about a task, or a certain business policy.
An operations manual is different from an employee handbook, and it’s very common (not to mention strongly advised) for a business to create, establish, and have both types of documents.
An employee handbook usually covers the company’s:
- And so on
Basically, it’s company culture-orientated.
Meanwhile, the operations manual mostly gives information about:
- Business policies
- Company hierarchy
- Company contact details
- Departmental contact details
- Business procedures & processes
- And emergency procedures & processes.
An operations manual, then, concerns the nitty-gritty, every day details about working at the company in question.
As my colleague, Ben Mulholland, succinctly puts it:
“Imagine a manual for a car. In it, you’ll be told what the model is, what the tire pressures need to be, and a myriad of other useful facts which are important to know, but not necessarily off by heart. An operations manual is exactly that, but for your company.
It’s a way of making sure that your team can reliably and efficiently carry out their tasks with consistent results. Human error is reduced to a minimum and everyone knows precisely what they need to do, who they might be waiting on, and who might be waiting on them to deliver results.” – Ben Mulholland, How to Create an Operations Manual for Your Business (and Avoid Nuclear War)
For insight into what the structure of an operations manual looks like, check out Process Street’s very own Operations Manual Template.
Interested in creating an operations manual yourself?
Sign up for an account for free, add the above template to your account, and then follow the instructions in the template.
The benefits of having an operations manual
In the earlier quote from Ben Mulholland’s article, he mentions that a benefit of having an operations manual is that it can severely reduce human error.
While that’s certainly true, there are a metric ton of other rewards that you and the rest of your company can reap.
Specifically, these include:
- Having documented processes and procedures. 📑
- Creating a one-stop-shop of essential info. 🧠
- Making training new hires easier. 🚀
- Reducing liability, increasing accountability. 💡
- Allowing you to scale (easily!) 📈
- Saving you a heck load of time. ⏱
Firstly, let’s discuss process documentation. Process documentation is the act of writing your business processes down and, preferably, storing that information in an accessible place. Documenting business processes can help said employees know what they have to do, how they should do it, and how to complete those recurring tasks efficiently and effectively. Needless to say, process documentation is at the heart of any operations manual.
Remember my earlier anecdote about the fashion company that has since gone bust? I wouldn’t have had to bombard the team with questions whenever they came back to the office if there was a repository of information. (Hell, even a Word doc would’ve sufficed!) An operations manual is a one-stop-shop of information that can be referred back to time and time again by confused or uncertain employees, no matter if they’ve been at the company for years or if they’re new. Speaking of new employees…
For many companies, onboarding is a particularly sore pain point. It can be frustratingly tricky to train up a new hire and show them what they should be doing, why, and how as quickly as possible. But with an operations manual, training a new staff member can be swift and smooth as everything they need to know is right there in the operations manual. (Plus, it’ll be useful for the mentor to brush up on their company-specific knowledge, if they need to, before the new hire’s first day.)
Nobody wants to be a liability (read: a burden, a hindrance, an inconvenience), and especially so in the workplace. Luckily, an operations manual remedies this issue in one fell swoop. The sheer existence of a proper, fully-written operations manual (as long as employees are actually told about the manual and where to find it, of course) means employees are accountable for their actions.
To illustrate an operations manual’s usefulness when it comes to accountability, let’s say Astrid, a social media exec, has been promoted to social media manager. Although she’s anxious about all her new responsibilities, she can use the operations manual as an encyclopedia of knowledge to help her execute the processes and procedures she’s now at the helm of, and with confidence. This fictional, totally made-up story leads me onto my next point rather nicely…
For the most part, it’s never an SMB’s vision to stay small. Usually, those working at the company want to become a well-known, well-regarded company that’s taking the world by storm. But the actual process of growing in size and stature as a company – known as scaling – can be the downfall of many startups, SMBS, and even larger enterprise-level businesses. But having – and, when necessary, updating – a company operations manual means the nightmare of scaling can be a dream. That’s because, with an operations manual, it’s easier to train new hires, provide long-term employees with the right info when they’re promoted, and have a referencable silo of processes and procedures.
Running around like a headless chicken or, alternatively, sitting at a desk worrying about having to ask a manager yet another question about how to go about a recurring task is nobody’s idea of fun. Nor is constantly asking colleagues what somebody else’s email is, or who’s the current social media manager. An operations manual saves time for everybody at a company because, well, it cuts the need to ask these questions in the first place! With that saving of time (and any associated worry), employees can get more done each day.
With all those benefits discussed, it’s safe to say that an operations manual is an incredibly nifty and worthwhile thing to have, right?
Don’t let your excitement be tarnished by the realization that an operations manual doesn’t just appear out of thin air…
I’ve got a plethora of checklist templates that’ll make creating, implementing, auditing, and updating an operations manual a breeze (so much so, it’ll be as if it did come out of thin air).
7 (free!) superpowered operations manual templates
At Process Street, we want to help our community as much as humanly possible.
That’s why our content team has created these super useful, superpowered checklist templates, so you can get your operations manual in check.
Below, I’ll explain what the checklist templates do, how to use them, and the inherent benefits that come from using them.
Operations Manual Template
For those who haven’t written an operations manual before (and those who hadn’t even considered writing one before reading this post), this template is for you.
It’s a structure template, meaning the structure of the operations manual has been laid out for you. All you need to do is add it to your account and follow the given instructions to create an operations manual!
As I mention at the beginning of the checklist template:
“Go through each section, following Process Street’s concise instructions to write your operations manual. This is mainly done by filling in the blanks, signified by square brackets [ ]. To make any changes, you’ll need to click the “Edit Template” button.
If you’d like to add more text, images, or subchecklists, that’s possible via the “Content” widget on the right-hand side of the editing screen. If you need to add more procedures & processes, there’s a “Task” button in the bottom left-hand corner of the editing screen.
Once you’re happy with the manual’s content, you can export the fully-written manual to Word and/or save it as a PDF file to share with your team(s). Alternatively, you can host your operations manual inside Process Street itself thanks to its templates, checklists, and folders.” – Thom James Carter, Operations Manual Template
This template is absolutely essential for getting your operations manual off the ground.
So, what’re you waiting for?
Checklist for Writing an Operations Manual
If the prospect of writing an entire operations manual still feels daunting, have no fear.
This Checklist for Writing an Operations Manual guides users through the process of writing an operations manual from beginning to end. Think of it as an accompanying checklist to the Operations Manual Template, that’ll ensure you leave no stone unturned.
What’s particularly helpful about this checklist template is that, not only are you and your collaborators told what to do, it also shows examples of what each section should look like.
To boot, it’ll also help you let the rest of the company’s employees know about the operations manual once it’s been created!
For beginners in particular, this checklist template is a necessary addition.
Interested in trying it yourself?
I thought so.
Internal Audit Procedure for an Operations Manual
An inadequate operations manual is a useless operations manual.
If you’ve gone to all the effort of creating and implementing one, you don’t want your company’s operations manual to not be doing what it’s supposed to.
That’s why this Internal Audit Procedure for an Operations Manual exists.
It’s based on ISO 9001 and the broader ISO annex L framework, meaning this audit procedure is extremely thorough. Considering its thoroughness, multiple people are necessary for this audit to be completed properly. But seeing as workflow automation features like role assignments and task assignments can be used, collaborating on this audit is a breeze.
An operations manual audit should happen regularly (i.e. at least every 6 months), considering the ever-changing nature of a company and its processes, procedures, and employees.
Just like our Operations Manual Template is essential for creating an operations manual in the first place, this audit is crucial to make sure the operations manual is, well, consistently good.
Process Library Checklist
An operations manual, for the most part, is to do with processes and procedures.
And while it’s helpful to have processes and procedures outlined in the handbook, there needs to be a more accessible, more streamlined way for employees to access these processes – like when using BPM software.
But just because you are creating and using processes in software like Process Street, that doesn’t mean you’re keeping organized. It could still take employees time to wade through to find the exact processes they’re after.
Once a process library has been created, the checklist can be used as a review checklist (used every 3 months). This is so that the library remains tidy, optimized, and useful for all employees!
Even if you decide against creating, implementing, and auditing an operations manual (…for now), having a process library is still an incredibly practical, convenient thing to have.
Ready to become a process pro with a process library?
The Process for Optimizing a Process
They’re wonderful when they’re optimized. But they’re also downright useless (and perhaps even harmful) when they’re not.
And, as we know, the business world moves at break-neck speed. This leads to processes that may have perhaps been great a while ago being rendered, well… not so great anymore.
To help you and your business get its processes back up to scratch, there’s The Process for Optimizing a Process. It follows the DMAIC structure for process improvement (define, measure, analyze, improve, control).
In layman’s terms, this means checklists from this template will guide you through identifying the process, rethinking it, suggesting improvements, getting approval to make the improvements, testing the improvements out, and then optimizing the process by implementing the improvements.
ISO-9000 Structure Template + ISO 9001 Internal Audit Checklist for Quality Management Systems
Our Operations Manual Template and Internal Audit Procedure for an Operations Manual were based on the ISO 9000 Structure Template and ISO 9001 Internal Audit Checklist for Quality Management Systems respectively.
If you wanted to get your SOPs in line with ISO specifications, and additionally audit your quality management system with confidence, you want to add these checklist templates to your account, too!
First up is the ISO-9000 Structure Template.
And don’t forget the ISO 9001 Internal Audit Checklist for Quality Management Systems.
There you have it.
7 incredible checklist templates for your operations manual to make it the best it can be!
These operations manual templates are used on the Process Street platform, so let’s dig into Process Street a little deeper and explain why you need to make it a part of your digital toolbox.
Use Process Street to take full control of your operations!
Process Street is superpowered checklists.
If you document workflows, business processes, and integral procedures as templates, you and your team can use templates – and even launch an infinite number of checklists from them – to help you do stellar work. Every. Single. Day.
For a visual introduction to our out-of-this-world business software, check out the video below.
With Process Street, you can host your entire operations manual in our app thanks to our nifty templates, checklists, and folders!
Even if you’d prefer your operations manual to be a Word doc or even printed out in booklet form, you can still use Process Street to write, document, and have your employees follow those important processes and procedures as checklists.
“For any process, it is easier for team members to follow a form or checklist. Develop a comprehensive template based on the mapped process.” – Kimberlee Leonard, How Do I Write a Standard Operations Procedures Manual?
Basically, there is a myriad of ways you can use Process Street in relation to an operations manual! How you choose to do so is down to you. We won’t judge.
If you’re wondering what superpowers Process Street checklist templates exactly, then it’s our workflow automation features.
These include (but aren’t limited to):
- Stop tasks ✋
- Conditional logic 🧠
- Dynamic due dates ⏱
- Task permissions 👀
- Task assignments 👤
- Role assignments 👥
- Embed widget 🌐
- Webhooks 🎣
- Approvals ✅
To deep dive into some of these features, watch the following webinar.
The information provided in this post – as well as the free operations manual templates – has, hopefully, been exactly what you needed to get started with your operations manual.
I can’t wait to see what your phenomenal (not to forget practical!) operations manual will look like.
Have you created an operations manual before? If so, are there any tips and tricks you’d like to share with the rest of the Process Street community? Write them down in the comment section below! 👇