Captain’s log, stardate 20190326

Geeking out about SOPs with reader Mike Wolfe

Reader Mike Wolfe wrote in about my 10-Day Systems Challenge. He and I had an email exchange that I think you'll find useful if you're interested in systematizing your business (shared with permission):


Michael:

I'm a big fan of this. I've been doing it for years.

I spent 10 years as the secretary and treasurer of a tiny borough. The job paid $1200/yr; it was basically a community service.

I didn't want to keep doing it forever, but felt guilty stepping aside because I knew the borough would struggle to fill the position. To make the position easier to fill (and to reduce my guilt when I stepped aside) I started making step-by-step lists for all my duties, reports, etc.

The idea was to ease the transition for my successor. I was not expecting it to improve my own productivity as much as it did. It was mind blowing.

Since then I've applied the same approach to my day job. Until I saw your email, though, I never considered it as a noteworthy business practice.

As for the secretary position, I passed the torch on that last January. And I handed my successor a 50+ page PDF printout of my DokuWiki SOP.

Thanks for listening,

Mike

P.S. I love DokuWiki for this for a whole bunch of reasons, but I've rambled long enough. I'll gladly share them if you're curious, though.

Jonathan:

Thanks for your note, Mike! I'd love to hear more about why you like DokuWiki :)

Yours,

-J

Michael:

J,

I think wikis generally work well for the following reasons:

I settled on DokuWiki over some of the other options for these reasons:

All that said, I don't know that DokuWiki would be a good choice for most non-technical users. It requires setup and hosting and there's no built-in WYSIWYG editor (plugins are available, but I've never used them).

See here for more info: https://www.dokuwiki.org/features

Out of curiosity, what are you using for your SOPs?

Jonathan:

Wow! Amazing answer!!! Lots of very compelling reason there.

Right now I'm just using plain text docs in Dropbox, which is dead simple, easy to share, and automatically versioned... but I don't love it. I'll take a look at DokuWiki, thanks!

BTW is it okay for me to share this thread?

Michael:

Sure, no problem.

For what it's worth, I think your approach is a fantastic starting point for most people. It lets them start applying the SOP principles right away without having to learn a new tool. If they stick with the approach, they will eventually run into the limitations of using text files. At that point, though, they will have a set of pain points they can use to guide their search for a replacement tool. And those pain points are likely to be different for every user.

Jonathan:

Agreed! Thanks again :-)


So to recap... to get started with SOPs, maybe just use Dropbox and plain text files. When you're ready to go nuts, take a look at DokuWiki.

Yours,

-J

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