It’s at times like these — when the business world is still unsettled after several years of turmoil and prevailing wisdom doesn’t see a quick end to the situation for any of us — that we tend to forget about the far horizon and concentrate on what’s directly in front of us. It’s only natural. Who can think about next year when you’re worried about next month?
This isn’t the time to be taking shortcuts, though. Take them and they will catch up with you. For instance, you have to train or retrain employees as the business contracts. You absolutely need well-developed, up-to-the-minute, error-free procedures and policies.
If your policies and procedures are incomplete, inconsistent, or outdated:
- Your people don’t get adequate training
- Steps are missed
- Customer dissatisfaction grows
- You fall further behind your competition, and even drop out of the race.
7 Keys For Writing Error-Free Procedures
To be effective, your business procedures have to be easy to understand, easy to follow, and easy to update. To ensure that your procedures are effective and error-free, keep the following points in mind:
Write your procedures so they’re easy to read (or view) and easy to follow.
Your procedures must be grammatically and syntactically correct. If they’re written procedures, there should be no spelling errors. If you plan on audio or video procedures, be sure the speaker pronounces words correctly, speaks clearly, and uses a style acceptable to the intended audience.
This is not simply a matter of “look and feel”, or of references, terms, and resources. Those are all important, but what we’re really talking about is consistent actions and consistent results. This is especially true when training personnel on procedures that are new to them. If you assign the procedure to two people who’ve just been trained and you get two different results, it may be your procedure’s at fault.
For obvious reasons, your procedures cannot have any gaps in information, logic, or design. Incomplete information and instructions mean you won’t get the results you’re looking for.
Procedures must accurately and appropriately describe the activity to be performed and they must not exist in a vacuum. There is no such thing as a stand-alone procedure — all procedures affect, and are affected by, other procedures so it’s best if you put a procedure in context. From where do its inputs come and where do its outputs go?
Your procedures have to incorporate feedback loops and process controls to be effective. Get familiar with the Plan-Do-Check-Act Cycle if you’re not already. (Think you are? Maybe, but a refresher certainly won’t do you any harm. Complacency is the enemy.)
Every procedure is written to ensure compliance with something — user needs (stated and implied), regulations, company requirements, and other. Address all requirements, not just some, in your procedures.
If you pay careful attention to these seven keys when writing, you will create error-free policies and procedures and get the results you want!