November 16, 2016 | Barb Carr

Five Tips for Writing Better Procedures

checklist-1622517_1280A poorly written procedure can lead to unsafe work, reduced productivity, and organizational failures.  A few tips can help you avoid these pitfalls. Procedures are action-oriented. They outline steps to take, and the order in which to take them. They are instructional, and may be used in training and orientation. Well-written procedures are solid, precise, factual, short, and to the point.

Here are five tips for writing better procedures:

  1. Avoid phrases like “as necessary,” “as applicable,” or “may include” because phrases like these are confusing. When would it be necessary?  When is it applicable?  When may it include something?  Be clear, specific, and to the point.
  2. Be consistent with terminology. Clarify terminology for those who may not be familiar with it and use the same terminology in each step.
  3. Add visual aids like images, diagrams, or sketches to facilitate understanding of the process.
  4. Organize long procedures into sections.  List less than ten steps per section. People lose focus when presented with a procedure with too many steps.
  5. Avoid using pronouns. Poor: “Turn it to the left.”  Good: “Turn Lever A3 to the left.”

One reference that we recommend in the TapRooT® Corrective Action Helper® Guide is Procedure Writing: Principles and Practices, (1999) by Douglas Wieringa, Christopher Moore, and Valerie Barnes, published by Battelle Press, Columbus, Ohio.

Learn more in our 5-Day TapRooT® Advanced Root Cause Analysis Team Leader Training (Click here to view course list).

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