There's no doubt that a workplace runs more smoothly when everyone knows what is expected of them. Whether it's a safety procedure or the instructions for completing some duty related to the day-to-day operation of the business, write up a procedure that is easy to understand and follow. This can require you to delineate the procedures step by step, and sometimes in a more elementary manner than you may imagine.
Review the steps of the task in your mind slowly and carefully, making notes about each step of the process. By envisioning the procedure before you start writing, you'll refresh your memory about the details involved in the various steps. At this time, also review any policy materials available, so the company's overall policies are fresh in your mind.
Type the "five Ws" for the procedure -- who, what, when, where and why -- at the top of the procedure page. For a procedure manual that works well, give people an idea of who is required to do the procedure, a brief description of what the procedure entails, when it should be carried out, where it should be completed, and why the person is doing it. Make it simple, and type "Who:" at the top of the page. Type the name of the person or people who will complete the task. Skip a line and type "What." Include the pertinent information for "What," then move on to "When" and so on. The "How" -- often included as the sixth informational question in procedures -- will be the actual procedure instructions.
Type a numeral "1" and then write the very first thing a person needs to do to complete the task. Do not overlook any basic functions; for example, if someone needs to take something out of a box, you must first instruct the person to open the box. Use language that is direct, actionable and not passive. If someone has to complete a task, tell them to "open the box," for example, and not "ensure that the box is opened."
Type a numeral "2" and then write the second thing a person must do to complete the task. Skip a line and type a "3" and describe the third thing, using as many steps as is necessary to complete the task.
Review the numbered section and determine if visuals, such as drawings or photos, would help the reader better carry out the instructions. If so, gather and insert photos or drawings that correspond to each numbered step.
Ask several co-workers to complete the steps as you have outlined them. Tell them to do only what the instructions say, and not to complete any tasks that are not outlined. In this way, you can determine whether there are places in your instructions where you need to fill in more details. Ask the co-workers to provide feedback with complaints or suggestions, and use that feedback to tweak the procedure.
- SafeWork SA: How and When to Write Policies and Procedures
- Delta Tech Systems: How to Write Procedures
- Include a date either at the top or bottom of the procedure page so that your readers know when the procedure was created. This is helpful when you implement new policies, since it dates the procedure and gives you a better idea about whether procedures need to be updated to match new policies.
Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.