6 Steps to Better Compliance Documentation: Guide Users

Step 5: Guiding your users to the information they need


Have you ever gone on a white-water rafting trip? If you like outdoor adventure, it’s a great experience. The river is wild and beautiful, the rapids are thrilling, and paddling is excellent exercise. You can enjoy it all without ever wondering about where you’re going or which route will get you there. You don’t need to think about that because your raft is steered by a guide, an expert whose job is to make sure you enjoy the trip and reach your destination safely.

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6 Steps to Better Compliance Documentation: Consistency is Critical


Step 4: Check for Consistency

Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland is a tale built on inconsistencies. In Wonderland, nothing is quite what it seems to be, and nothing remains the same for very long. Even Alice herself undergoes changes—the poor girl can’t keep from growing and shrinking. All the inconsistencies contribute to the story’s wonderfully disorienting “through the looking glass” feel. They help make Alice the timeless classic that it is.

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6 Steps to Better Compliance Documentation: Take the User's Perspective


Step 3: Organize Information from the user’s perspective

Have you ever noticed how easy it is for two people to look at the same situation, and yet see things very differently? Of course, if you’re married you know exactly what we’re talking about. If you’re unattached, all you need to do is turn on the news—this is a presidential election year, and the candidates’ differences of perspective are feature stories every day.

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6 Steps to Better Compliance Documentation: Categorizing Information


Imagine for a moment that you’re a chef, and your specialty is preparing dishes without knowing which ingredients you’re using. How many customers do you think will patronize your restaurant? How long will it be until you’re offered your own cooking show on television?

Step 2: Categorize information by type and purpose

Would you enjoy being served a meal that was prepared by a chef who had no idea which ingredients he was using? None for me, thanks—it would probably upset my stomach. Of course, if you’re a writer who creates a document without understanding the different types of information you’re working with, you’re putting your readers into much the same situation. Except that instead of indigestion, the result will probably be non-compliance.

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6 Steps to Better Compliance Documentation: Knowing Your Audience


Cutting your way through the tangle of today’s compliance regulations is like hacking a path through a jungle. Finding your way is challenging, but we’ve developed a route that can lead you to success.

Last week we listed key features of successful compliance documentation for you to keep in mind when evaluating your documents. This week, the discussion continues as we introduce the first in a series of 6 Steps to Better Compliance Documentation.

Step 1: Understand the Needs of Your Audience(s)

“One size fits all” is great for baseball caps, but it usually doesn’t work for compliance documents. Your compliance documentation can—and probably will—fail if you insist on writing it using a “one size fits all” approach that doesn’t take into account the needs of different audiences. If your goal is to create clear, effective documentation, “one size fits all” can be a very bad idea.

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7 features of successful compliance documentation


Auditors and industry experts agree that poor documentation is a root cause of non-compliance. When auditors can’t easily find and understand the information they need in your documentation, or see that the documentation doesn’t match up with actual practices, the consequences range from the headaches of longer, costlier audit processes to major catastrophes like fines, shut-downs or even litigation.

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Capturing your organization’s mission-critical knowledge: Organizing, Reviewing, and Deploying your content

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It’s time to get organized

In our last entry, we shared a knowledge capture strategy that involved identifying “buckets” for your organization’s processes, and filling them with information. Now that you’ve filled your buckets, the next step is for you to get all that content organized and structured so that your audiences will be able to quickly and easily find the information they need, and understand it and use it effectively.

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Capture your organization’s mission-critical knowledge—top down and bottom up

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Start with the “top-down” phase

Use a top-down approach to begin capturing your organization’s mission-critical knowledge. The idea is to look at your processes from the proverbial 30,000 foot level. Don’t worry about the details, at least for now—your goal is to gain a general understanding of each process.

Hold a group capture session

Hold a group capture session that includes every employee who contributes to the task or process. Getting this group together will work better than conducting a series of individual interviews, because you’ll be able to quickly build concensus. Individual interviews usually result in gathering a lot of different viewpoints, and reconciling those viewpoints can cost you a lot of time.

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“Turn in your ID card, but before you go….”


Ask any manager—they’ll tell you that firing an employee is by far the most difficult and unrewarding aspect of being a boss. Anyone who’s ever had to “let somebody go” will confirm that meeting with a worker to terminate their employment is, at best, an awkward and unpleasant event. Such a meeting can easily become ugly and painful for all concerned. 

Even when the employee being terminated is able to keep their emotions in check, they’re almost certain to be unhappy and upset. Clearly, a meeting like this is a less-than-optimal time for you to ask, “Say…before Security escorts you out of the building? Would you mind showing me exactly how you reconcile that tricky daily utilization report?”

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Knowledge capture: Identifying your organization’s mission-critical knowledge

Where’s all the know-how going?

“Sorry, I’m not sure how you do that.  Ask Bill in IT, he knows… never mind, I forgot that he retired last month. No, don’t bother with the manual. It hasn’t been updated since 2008, and we’re doing things a lot differently now. Maybe Jen can help you, but she’s out at the other office today: she’s been really busy since Bill left.” 

You’ve probably heard at least a few conversations like this, maybe you’ve even participated in one. They’re taking place nearly everywhere, as increasing numbers of baby boomers leave the workforce. And they’re leaving in record numbers. We recently read an article in the business news describing how Putnam Investments, a major provider of retirement fund management services, is hiring additional sales and service personnel to meet the needs of the growing retirement market. 

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