The Case for Creating a Playbook

Time is a scarce and precious resource for small business owners and managers. I get it – there aren’t enough hours in the day, and you have to be judicious about how you allocate them.

That’s why a lot of small businesses don’t have a training book. It takes time to write out your shop’s processes, particularly if you want to do so clearly and accurately. Why invest days into creating a training book, when you could just have new employees shadow experienced ones for a couple of weeks and call it good?

My advice to managers: invest those days, and do it soon.

Yes, of course, asking new employees to shadow team leaders is helpful. Yes, of course, they will learn a lot through observation. Yes, of course, there’s no way to anticipate and write out EVERY scenario that will arise throughout the workday.

But imagine you coach a football team. Would you feel confident in letting your new quarterback run the entire playbook after three days of observing practice from the sidelines?

You wouldn’t, and neither would I.

In addition to mentorship, observation, and shadowing, employees, like quarterbacks, need a playbook. They should be given the opportunity to review processes aside from being on the shop floor. Mastery requires study, and study requires tangible materials – books, articles, or videos – that employees can engage with.

The longer we’re in our industries, the more likely we are to forget that for someone learning the trade, the 8-5 hustle seems chaotic. Our shop floors are not the ideal place for internalizing new concepts.

Give your new hires a fighting chance. Give them the opportunity to learn the vocabulary. Let them engage with your key processes mentally along with watching them in action, so they’re more likely to understand what they’re witnessing. A good playbook provides context for the shop’s many activities, and the right employee will be grateful for that context.

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