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Is it a task or a skill?
Ryan Ogden Headshot

Written by Ryan Ogden

Ryan is the Founder of Momentum and he built it to help small to medium-sized companies systematize their operations to scale their business.

Momentum Team

We’ve all documented easy, step-by-step instructions. Whether it was for a recipe, driving directions, or how to take care of a pet, we are experienced at writing simple instructions.

Unfortunately, when it comes to business procedures, these experiences set us up for failure and frustration. The reason is that we have expectations that business procedures should be just as easy to document.

The good news is that many areas of a business are simple to capture. There are also more complex areas of a business, and it’s these areas that can really frustrate even the best communicators and experts.

One of the ways that you can make it much simpler to perform procedures is if when you’re defining it, take a minute and think…is this a task or a skill?

With a task, you would be able to pull somebody off the street, unfamiliar with the business and with no experience, and they can follow the procedure. You might have to show them once or twice or explain the procedure, and then they’re off and running.

We like to think of a skill as a musical instrument. How do you learn to play a musical instrument? If you give someone a saxophone and they have never played before and you hand them the procedures on how to play it, they’re not going to perform well because they need time to develop that skill. It doesn’t matter how good the procedures are. It helps you later by figuring out where on the spectrum this procedure is.

A key decision is a decision that you’re making about how you want to see this procedure. And wherever you choose on the spectrum will set you up nicely for how you convey it, teach it, and control it, if it needs any controls at all.

Let’s dive into a specific kind of skill of decision-making. Decision-making can be so tricky because decision-makers aren’t even aware of their thought process a lot of times. People will say, “I just do it,” “I don’t know,” or “I use my judgment.” And so we often think it’s not repeatable, but it can be by asking the decision-maker questions like, “How did you know to do that?” or “Why did you choose that?” It seems like it’s a difficult decision-making process and hard to replicate, but it is a teachable process if you ask the right questions. Businesses might want to consider apprenticeship, mentoring, and ways to develop employees with challenging skills.

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