Procedure are the fundamental of your business: they explain what you do. They serve in the daily operation but also in training, continuous improvement, problem solving, etc. Or at least they should. Today most of companies struggle with procedure management. Ill-written, a procedure is not useful. None read it or update it. Here is 10 easy tips on how to writes procedures and make them effective...again.
1 - Go to the point
Do not overload your procedure. A procedure must be clear, to the point. If there are too many information, people won’t read it.
2 - Make it visual
An image worth a thousand words. Illustrations make a procedure easier to read and much clearer. Employees don’t have the time to read an entire document to fix problems. Often, an image can help them understand in a single view whether the information they are looking for is in the document or not. If well done and in specific cases, short videos can also be powerful. Don’t abuse of them though as looking for information in a video can be time-consuming. Last, don’t forget text! It exists efficient way to present text in order to make it visual and understandable in a single view.
3 - Illustrate the process
A procedure must be understandable in seconds. And the best solution to do it is to illustrate the process of the job you describe. This is how JITbase illustrates the process in work instructions:
In a single view, an operator or any other employees can validate what the document is about, thanks to the description of the main steps of a process. For each main step, instructions provide more details.
4 - Standardize
Standardization is obviously a key to make documents easy to understand for everyone in the company. While a template can be useful, it does not force employees to stick to it. You need both to train your employees and ensure a meticulous control. Or you go with a software where the template can’t be broken. Also human errors appear on tedious fields such as the reference number of a document. The best option is to automate it with a software. It easily banishes regular mistakes, and on top of that it removes a fastidious task that nobody like to do.
5 - Limit to a single page
Right. One single page. And yes, it is always possible! Most of companies currently use long procedures of 20 pages or even more. Those procedures can be divided into sub-procedures that are limited to one page. The benefits are huge. First, it helps define the process better: what are the different sub-task to realize the whole process? Second, your procedures will be much easier to read and to understand.
6 - Remove the useless
Depending of the company, some fields are not useful. What matter is the process. Describing the objectives of the document, the responsibility or also the scope of application might be not applicable. And often, nobody read it anyway.
7 - Use a good structure
Define what need to be presented in your procedures and stick to it. A good structure helps put every employees on the same page and understand what is important in your documentation.
8 - Keep them up-to-date
Is there a more painful job than updating all your procedure in the meantime (probably because you have an ISO audit and you haven’t read your documentation for 2 years)? Update your procedures directly when you change a process. Even before you change it, in the best practices. You will save hundreds of hours and let your employees access a reliable documentation anytime they need.
9 - Consult the employees who actually do the task
The main goal of a procedure is to know how a task is done. Often, an engineer writes the entire documentation, without even asking the operators. Consult them, review the procedure with them, ask them feedback and potential improvements: make them part of the process. You will end up with better documents and even more important, with documents accepted by your employees.
10 - Stop think procedure are boring
If you execute all the advises, your procedures will be useful and your employees will use them in the daily operations. It enlighten the creation, for a better result which leads to a more efficient company.
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