Self-operating Napkin CartoonStandard operating procedures (SOPs), work instructions and other process documentation can have a significant impact on your business—either positive or negative. An organization’s documentation forms a baseline for procedures or practices that can be reviewed and improved, and they are an important form of communicating an organization’s requirements to employees. This should not be a “set it and forget it” chore. Most should be living documents that are kept up-to-date to be useful for employees. Good documentation makes training easier, reduces errors and adds value to the business.

Creating great procedure documentation requires some thought and attention, but great documents are achievable. Follow these steps to produce documents that are relevant, accurate and available—when and where you need them most.

1. Make them simple and understandable. Poorly worded procedure documents only serve to make tasks more complex.  Here are some tips to keep your employees focused on the task at hand, and not on deciphering complex commands.

  • Use an active voice
  • Use clear and concise language
  • Use headings to convey a fundamental action, with supporting details in the body of the step

2. Use multimedia to reinforce instructions. Even with well-worded instructions, nothing beats imagery and video to demonstrate how to complete a task. Incorporate images and videos to reinforce your instructions. 

3. Use a consistent format. Use templates to ensure that your documents are formatted in a consistent manner. By sticking to a consistent format, your employees will spend more time focused on work and less time digesting document content.

4. Use task lists to ensure accurate execution. You've spent considerable effort defining the "one best way" to do a particular task, now put it in to practice! Leveraging checklists ensures that important steps aren't missed.

5. Solicit feedback. Just because you're an expert in a particular procedure doesn't mean you don't have more to learn. Solicit feedback from the folks putting your procedures into practice. Getting feedback from practitioners leads to better outcomes by:

  • Capturing valuable tacit information
  • Uncovering inefficiencies in existing processes
  • Instilling a sense of ownership throughout the business

6. Implement an appropriate approval process. Inaccurate procedures can lead to disastrous outcomes. Ensure that your procedure documents are accurate by establishing a review and approval process prior to making them available to your workforce.

7. Determine a review schedule. Process documentation isn't meant to be static. Technologies, techniques and knowledge all evolve over time. Make sure your process documentation is reviewed on a regular basis to ensure it is accurate and up to date.

8. Make them available. What good is a procedure document if it's collecting dust on a bookshelf, or locked away on a workstation? Here are some tips to ensure your documents are available in the right place, at the right time—and on the right device.

  • Leverage the web for content delivery anywhere it's needed
  • Leverage Search and metadata tagging for document discovery
  • Format documents so they look great on any device

General Alfred M Gray Jr., Former Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps once said, “Communications without intelligence is noise; intelligence without communications is irrelevant.” Software can make the job of creating, managing and distributing documented policies, procedures and work instructions easier. These tools help organizations stay up to date and organized. Acadia Performance Platform™ is a cloud-based SaaS solution that is workplace tested and continuously improved with features that directly impact performance and results.

Visit us at PEX Week 2016, booth 17.