If a Process Isn't Documented - Does it Exist?
At one of my clients we have two deliveries of fruit a week. When I started working with them I was told to "help myself to one piece of fruit a day". However, when chatting about my love of the daily dose of fruit one of the staff members exclaimed "you're only supposed to take one piece of fruit per delivery!" - to which another staff member popped up and said "No, I was told one piece of fruit per day!". My response was pretty typical of a process consultant: "Show me the process or it doesn't exist!"
This may sound like a trivial discussion, but there's an important point to be made: if it isn't documented in some manner there is no official record of the process. There are no rules and no-one can be held accountable. Who is to say what the process is? Who is to say what is right or wrong?
When we have gaps in documentation (and by that I mean many ways of having the process documented - either in softcopy, in a content management system or in a BPMS for example) we create grey areas and we create inconsistency. Grey areas aren't always bad - after all employees do some of their best work when they are given freedom within boundaries, but inconsistency of process can lead to chaos and a highly negative customer experience.
We also allow incorrect behaviour to continue...whether it's the skinny girl who only eats two apples a week or the fat Scottish guy in the corner that eats 5 fruits a week - there's no saying who's right or wrong unless it's there in black and white.