RE: 1,000-page documents (was Working with large documents in Word)

Subject: RE: 1,000-page documents (was Working with large documents in Word)
From: "Dori Green" <dgreen -at- associatedbrands -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 9 Aug 2007 10:23:13 -0400

Dan Goldstein wrote:

I've never had an end-user say,
"We really need a 1,000-page manual." And yet, I've been told to write
plenty of 'em in my day.


I suspect it's the old "shelfware" monster -- looks good sitting on the shelf, nobody ever really uses it. An auditor says "do you have a procedure for..." and auditee can reply "sure do, right there." Once upon a time they got away with this; auditor would mark their checklist and move on.

Now some auditors are asking to look at the procedure, even to watch the process with procedure in hand to confirm that somebody is doing things the way they said they should be done. What a concept!

Managers who don't like this development are likely to require those 1,000-page manuals to discourage the auditors from schlepping them out to the production floor.

I do have 1,000-page books. My "Quality Management System" manual, a simple rehash of the ISO Standard (it says "the company shall" and I say "we do"), identifies the major processes including a master overview of "Packaging/Production".

The "Packaging/Production" overview identifies the 22-or-so specific production processes -- Receiving, Label Printing, Mixing, Product Feed, each production line, Warehouse, and Shipping.

Each of those processes has an overview document (procedure), which shows location on the production floor, a flow chart indicating where this process fits into the full production system, and flow chart process maps for startup and operation/shutdown with identification of who's responsible for each step and where to find any associated form or detailed instructions.

I engage the people on the floor by getting them together to create the process maps and having everybody on that line on the day of review (even brand new people -- especially them!) approve the final map before it's sent out for management approval.

As part of the process mapping task we identify problems, bottlenecks, safety hazards, and other critical process points. We take care to document the process as it exists at that moment, and I facilitate the team onward without getting distracted into fixing problems as long as they are noted. These become our first targets for process improvement after management review.

Forms and instructions that are universal to all operations are titled with the company name at the beginning of the title. Forms and instructions that are specific to a production line are titled with the name of the line at the beginning of the title.

Examples: "Associated Brands Cleaning Guidelines" (instruction)
"Associated Brands Cleaning Signoff Sheet" (form/quality record)
"Bouillon Line: How to Change A Wrapper Roll" (instruction)

When the "customer list" for an instruction includes "new hires", I make a special attempt to format the instruction with step-by-step instructions and pictures. I keep those documents as short and sweet as possible so they can be enlarged, laminated, and slapped up on the wall near that workstation as part of the setup process.

Each production area gets a special supporting document consisting of cover page, table of contents, and revision history. This is used to assemble the physical book that's maintained by the lead operator for that line.

A master list of controlled documents is bound in the front of the book and may be updated manually by me or any supervisor or manager (with signature and date). This is just to avoid killing more trees.

My electronic master copy of each document is the controlled copy; paper copies are defined as uncontrolled. Their revision number and date must be compared against the master list before they are used. If rev and date don't match, the lead operator is responsible for requesting a replacement from Document Control (me). This has taken some training but it seems to be working.

All documents are controlled manually (by me, Goddess of the Documents) using an Access database. The database template came from Point To Point (about $400) and was designed for ISO document control. It lacked documentation and the promised technical support never did materialize and it needed lots of tweaking and the tweaker should be able to read German/Dutch but it works for us. We could get an automatic system from ($30,000 and it would still need an overseer who almost certainly would command twice my meager salary).

When this system is complete, it will include several thousand five-page documents. Needless to say, I keep backups of the backups, especially of the database!

It does require the very dedicated attention of a certified (or at least certifiably) obsessive-compulsive librarian (me). This is not busy-work for an intern. It needs to be somebody's second religion to immediately record any status change in the database. I do keep a printout of the master list so I can keep updating document information when the system is having hiccups (I mean when it's intentionally and temporarily removed from service for upgrades, as we were trained to say at the call center -- computer systems are never "down").

In my copious free time I wander around on the plant floor drawing diagrams of the production lines, taking photographs of the lines, actually writing process overviews and work instructions, designing forms, picking the brain of the quality manager who's getting ready to retire in two years and has been here for almost 20 years. He isn't officially in my assigned collection of SMEs but I would be eighteen kinds of a fool not to spend as much time reviewing systems with him as I can. I eat lunch in the cafeteria joking about "Hey, somebody gave me a free can of cherry drink mix -- should I put it in water or just wear it like everybody else does?" and keeping up with whose granddaughter is out of the hospital, ex is in jail, all the fun stuff that the rest of "The Cubicle People From Upstairs" miss out on.

And that's how I handle 1,000-page documents and battle the "Shelfware" monster.

Dori Green

hmmm, I think I'll save this post and make it into an STC article or presentation.
copyright 2007 Dori Green, all rights reserved

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RE: Working with large documents in Word: From: Dan Goldstein

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