We have a saying within Little Engine Ventures: “You cannot delegate until you document.” It’s a simple rule but profound. If you want to delegate a recurring task to someone else you must train them on how to do it well. In order to train well you need to show them and the provide them with reference material to maintain quality. Thus, you must document before you delegate.
Few people document. Thus, few people delegate.
If you want to gain capacity for more total work you must do more work per hour or bring in more hours. Documentation of steps helps improve both methods. If you write down the steps an individual must conduct to complete a task you can often reveal faster means of conducting the work. The order of operations can be changed or certain steps can be batched together. This can increase velocity while maintaining the same hours. This is generally the most valuable type of work for the owner to do. Those who do this well often gain favor with the owner and likely become owners in time. The other method is to bring in more hands. This is usually the most expensive means, but most scalable means. If the current system is profitable then this pathway makes sense. If the current system is unprofitable then this is a terrible idea, as more hands cost more money and the current velocity of work is already inadequate to justify the present cost. If more people are allowed in the organization will ultimately shrink more quickly after the owner confronts the reality of the business model.
To gain capacity you must delegate. This means you must move tasks down the organization. The means to achieve this is through documentation and training. Then, the growth rate of the organization is throttled by the speed at which you can document, train and delegate.
How best to document?
We use pair of Google Templates. The foundation is a word processor for Procedures. These are individual steps. We like Google Docs because they are living documents and the hyperlink functionality improves navigation to other resources. We often embed Loom videos or images into these. The swimlane process document is a Google Slide. The involve multiple roles and tie together the Procedures in a over-arching process. These are where the magic happens and where management must dwell… enforcing the order of operations and generally improving throughput of the various stages of a process. Again, hyperlinks are valuable here. Above the swimlane processes we use workflows to describe the big areas of Operations, Sales and Admin functions. All of our companies match the basic workflows of these three categories. They insert and label intermediate steps only as necessary to navigate down to the sub processes.. which then hyperlink down the the procedures of each role. The roles’ scorecards then tie back to procedures. All of this is mapped to onboarding schedules by role, and surveys to assure individuals are being onboarded properly. Org down, info up, accountabilities skip level. Delegation requires documentation.