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Documenting your core processes...

"How do we know what processes to document?"

Great question!

If you are aiming for constant improvement, it is critical that you document your core processes. It is only by doing this that lessons emerging from debriefs and washups can be fed back into your organisation.

But, how deep do we go? Do we document EVERYTHING?

As a rule, if your team does something repeatedly, document it and ensure everyone who performs the task is familiar with it. Remember, you can still deviate from the procedure, but by writing it down you are creating a standard by which tasks are executed.

After I was asked the question above, I used F/A-18 operations as an example. During the mission briefing for any particular task, the formation lead would usually state "Start, taxi and takeoff will be SOP".

"SOP" means in accordance with the Standard Operating Procedures.

Because starting the jet, taxying to the runway and performing a takeoff are events which were repeated literally every time we went flying, they were written down in the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). We also had 'Tactical SOPs' which detailed standard procedures for every tactical role we had. Tasks like:

> Intercepting specific threat aircraft

> Performing precision strikes onto enemy shipping

> Flying a departure from a runway surrounded by a man-portable surface-to-air threat

Tactical SOPs was a HUGE document, and part of the challenge as a junior fighter pilot was becoming intimately familiar with it!

Back to the start/taxi/takeoff...

There are hundreds of discrete tasks associated with the 15-20 minute period of time from starting a jet to getting airborne. Having robust SOPs greatly relieved the job of briefing, as the procedures would provide a 'common sheet of music' for the formation.

But, these SOPs were also a way of refining operations. Because these core processes documents were already more than a decade old, and because of the robust nature of our analysis and feedback, the SOPs didn't need to be amended very often; but if they did, the mechanism was there.

So, if your team is aiming for high performance and therefore wants to constantly improve, do the following:

1. Write down every process you repeat frequently,

2. Debrief your execution after every discrete event, or at least at regular intervals, and

3 Respond by feeding lessons back into your core process documents.

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