Confessions of a Documents Manager
So yesterday has been designated ‘A GOOD DAY’. Yesterday was ‘The Audit’. Specifically, the WDA audit…three little letters which up until January had been insignificant and meaningless but since then seem to have become my raison d'etre.
I didn’t come to Cryoniss from a scientific background. Prior to this I was a teacher – a secondary English teacher who was also responsible for training School Direct entrants to the profession. My own in-service training went like this: basically, we all got together on one of those training days bemoaned by parents and cherished by children, sat in a hall, watched an endless stream of PowerPoints and at the end of it, signed a couple of bits of paper attached to the back of three or four policies before we left. Child Protection training; The Prevent strategy (if you know, you know); some sort of safer Internet/social media policy which meant that if you posted drunken antics on Instagram and the pupils found it, you only had yourself to blame. The end. Done for another year. Regulations met. Senior leaders could merrily complete their tracking spreadsheet and we were secure. If we messed up, let it not be said we hadn’t been told the *right* way – it was our fault.
I read four policies a year. That’s it. I’m sure there were more, but I taught in the same school for 21 years: No one asked me to read them, I definitely didn’t read them by choice, and can only assume I didn’t need to. The policies were for Senior Management, at time for parents, and mostly, let’s be fair, for Ofsted.
I’ve worked at Cryoniss part-time since August, full-time since January. When I accepted the role I was confused. Managing Documents? Everyone who learnt about my career change was curious. ‘But what will you actually be doing? You know, like on a day-to-day basis?’ Everyone who wasn’t from the pharmaceutical industry, that is.
Turns out I would be very, very busy managing those endless documents! Documents that were the backbone of the company. Documents that everyone contributed to, scrutinised and indeed followed. Religiously.
Since January I’ve proof-read, edited and reviewed 18 policies. Some of these are on their third version *since I’ve been with the company*. And that’s just the policies. Add on the manuals, the validations and of course, the SOPs.
SOP was an acronym I now realise I was blissfully ignorant of. Not so much anymore. We’re up to 55. How can there even be 55 procedures? You know what needs SOPs? SCHOOLS! Want to know how to use the Biometric system to buy your lunch? SOP_034. Want to know how to fill in your pupil data? SOP_011. Carry two sets of exercise books to the boot safely – that’s ‘Heavy Lifting’ for you my friend. Truthfully, now I wonder how anyone ever found out how to do anything. Should I ever want to ‘Operate the Autoclave’ at Cryoniss (newsflash – if I knew what one was, I wouldn’t), there’s an SOP. Should I ever want to Decontaminate and Clean Spills (again, I live with my 11 and 7 year old daughters – no thanks), I’d simply click along to SOP_034. If it’s not on an SOP it doesn’t happen. And if it is, it better had….
Initially I was brought in when Cryoniss re-branded from Cryosphere Services. I bet you can guess what needed changing can’t you? Add to this a fancy Brand and Marketing Director with a passion for Gill Sans MT and a COO with an addiction to document template and drop-down menus and you’re led to dramatic changes to all of the existing documents. And at first, that’s what I did. And I liked what I did and it was good.
Cryoniss has quality management running through its core. We’re founded on the Kaizen principles of continual improvement and for me, that’s taken some getting accustomed to. I’m used to ‘just getting things down’ and ‘finishing’ – preferably as quickly as possible: concepts that don’t really apply in Sonia and Phil’s world. It would seem nothing is ever ‘finished’ but this is a cause for celebration, not frustration. Policies, processes and procedures can always be improved, and therefore, so can the documents that describe them.
Now of course, I’ve only EVER worked from Cryoniss during lockdown or at least physical restrictions of some sort. Normally, we’d merrily be sitting in an office together at some point, chortling whilst we signed off these cherished documents as I ploughed through them. No longer possible, and thus I was introduced to the heady and intoxicating world of DocuSign. What bigger thrill than seeing (not hearing - I’ve had to turn off the email pinging alert) the recipients ‘Open the Envelope’, ‘View the Envelope’…wait for it…..tension mounts…. Click on ‘Waiting for Others’ ….Who’s holding up the process? Silent curses…gentle prompting email? Bam! Complete! I adore DocuSign.
And this was me – Documents Manager. Quite literally managing those documents within an inch of their lives. I’m good at keeping track of things. I’m good at proof reading. Years of marking and filling in Excel spreadsheet tracking pupil progress had served me well and I was master of my domain.
Until…’We’re going for WDA,’ they said. ‘We’re being fast-tracked’. ‘We’ve got an audit in a couple of weeks’. ‘The audit’s on Wednesday’ they said. Little. Did. I. Know.
Two new phrases were added to my nightmares. GDP and Medicinal Products haunted my working life. SOPs were tweaked, reviewed, approved and issued before the tweaking began again. Templates were adjusted to account for GDP regulations, meaning all policies needed re-issuing. The Controlled Document Index was burned into my retinas.
A week before the audit we updated the SOP for Generating a Risk Assessment. Hilariously, a new scoring system (yes, OK, I admit it, a new, improved and more rigorous scoring system) was introduced, neatly leading into the modification of all the existing Risk Assessments. How I chuckled! But this is how Cryoniss’s quality management system works. A change needs making, make a change. There’s no point dilly-dallying.
Another part of my role is the formalisation and tracking of training procedures. I created a fancy new Training Matrix (a spreadsheet to you and I) and colour coded it to the nth degree. I rewrote the SOP in minute detail and mocked up a lovely Training Record. In theory, it was thorough, compliant, slick. In practice, were we not two days away from an audit, it was thorough, compliant, slick. Turns out two days away before an audit however is NOT the time to radically alter a procedure. We got there, but I think Phil signed and re-signed Sonia’s Training Record four times in the space of one hour at one point. The change had been made however, successfully and effectively. And the end product was great.
A couple of hours before the cut-off point for the uploading of documents for the audit, I received a phone call. There was a problem with SOP_001. I gritted my teeth and rolled my eyes (this wasn’t Teams – I could get away with it). Sonia has noticed a couple of paragraphs weren’t aligned. ‘No probs! I’ll sort it!’ I reassured brightly. Sonia, in the best way possible, is a perfectionist. Phil is also a perfectionist. I’m sure there’s a word for when perfectionist meets perfectionist, but I don’t know it. All I know is that it is now my world. It’s insane at times. But it sure makes for some watertight documentation.
And so reader, to cut a long story short, we made it.. We passed. The documents met with approval. It was ‘A Good Day’.
The following morning, an email pinged. I’d been brave enough to turn on the alerts once more. It was Sonia: ‘Caz, can you release SOP_030 & SOP_59 to Drafts for some modifications please?’ Just a small example of the utter ‘continuousness’ of Cryoniss’s continuous improvement. And I’ve grown to embrace it.