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We were asked this by a reader not long ago, in reference to writing a quality procedure. Exactly what procedure, the reader didn’t say, so I’ll keep my explanation brief and general.
In the policies and procedures we offer on the Bizmanualz web site, we generally include a statement of purpose. That is, what’s the purpose of the procedure outlined in the document? Not only is what you do important — why you do it is just as important.
Overall, the purpose of any procedure is to serve as training material. In addition, an important purpose of procedures is to ensure consistency. Procedures are designed to help reduce variation within a given process.
Furthermore, clearly stating the purpose for a procedure helps you gain employee cooperation, or compliance, and it instills in your employees a sense of direction and urgency.
The statement of purpose is a “soft” statement of reasons and goals. Objectives, on the other hand, are about quantifying and measuring. For any of your business processes, you must have measurable objectives. How do you know if your processes are working if you’re not tracking and measuring the results? How do you improve your processes if you don’t establish a baseline, then measure output against the baseline? And, how do you compete effectively if you’re not continually improving?
In short, a procedure’s purpose addresses the “why” and the objectives address “what”, “when”, “how”, and “how much”. The purpose is general, where the objectives are specific.
I hope that helps clarify the issue. If it doesn’t — or if you have a differing opinion — let me know, won’t you? Thanks.