Creating Written Procedures

If you want everyone in your organisation to have a clear idea of what they need to do, it's essential to create effective written procedures. Team members can always ask questions, watch videos, and attend meetings and training. However, there's no substitute for having concise instructions that they can access, either in printed form or online. Let's explore some of the best methods for optimising the written procedures for your business.

Create Clear Document Templates

When you need to create new documents, it's very useful if you have a template to consult. A template is a set of instructions that can be used as a starting point for creating any type of document. It usually includes a certain amount of information that can be applied to many specific documents. Templates aren't ideal for every type of document, but they cover many commonly-used documents, including the following.

  • Press releases
  • Forms
  • Sales pages
  • Letters/emails
  • Customer support questions

Consider, for example, this press release template for fundraising. The particular focus here is on raising funds for Parkinson's. People can use this template to create their own events. The function of the template is to allow anyone to simply "fill in the blanks" without having to start the document from scratch.

Write Down Each Step

Sometimes, rather than a template, you need to write out instructions on how to perform a task. It could be a manual task, computer-related, or a procedure for serving customers. 

Think about what needs to be done before, during, and after the task. List each step in order. Don't leave anything out. When writing out instructions, assume you're addressing someone who has never performed the task before. Consider an example provided by the BBC on How to Write Instructions. This manual is made for teaching English, but the principles are useful for any type of written guidelines or instructions.

Another example can be found at  Google Business Profile Help, for users looking for help listing their local business with Google. You can see that topics are broken down into categories such as "Verify your business and get started," "fix verification issues," etc. Under each category, there are links with more specific information. While this format is easy for a website, the same principle applies to printed materials. In an instruction manual, you can similarly have topics with subtopics underneath. 

Make Information Easy to Access

In some cases, you may hand out a printed instruction manual to students, employees, volunteers, or anyone who needs to access the information. Another possibility is sending a file via email, such as a PDF document that recipients can download. For some types of information, users will need to be a little more proactive and find what they need on their own. 

A well-organised website can provide a helpful model on how to provide information in a way that users with differing needs can easily access what they need. Consider, for example, the University of Edinburgh's People and Money User Guides. There are many topics, such as Payroll, Pensions, Financial Approvals, and more. Users can find user guides on the particular topic that applies to them. Under each topic are sub-topics.  The information is presented in a way that users can locate the particular guide they need.

Test it Out

The best way to determine if you have clear and effective instructions is to test the process. It's best if you can test it on multiple people or teams. Make sure everything works as expected. If there are areas where people are unclear, you may need to go back and make revisions.

You can also poll or question the people who are testing the process. Ask them for recommendations on how the instructions could be clearer. Sometimes a step may seem obvious to someone who is very familiar with the process, but confusing to a beginner. Getting feedback helps you improve the instructions and make them clearer.

Creating Clear Instructions

Here are some guidelines to remember when creating written instructions.

  • The person or team writing the instructions should understand the process themselves. Outsourcing the writing of a technical process can produce results that aren't clear. This is especially true if the people writing the instructions aren't native speakers of the same language.
  • Use short sentences and paragraphs. Long stretches of text make it harder for readers to concentrate. Using white space and graphics helps to make the text more readable. 
  • Use supporting media and platforms. In the digital age, people access information in a variety of ways. While written procedures are still crucial, they may also be supported by other formats such as audio and visual guides. Using multiple formats helps to reinforce information and reaches people with different learning styles.
  • Keep your branding consistent. Aside from the actual written content, it's always a good idea to stay consistent with your organisation's branding guidelines. This includes writing style (e.g. casual, formal, technical), logo, fonts, and colours. Brand consistency helps your employees, students, or users to stay focused and not confuse your procedures with those created by others.
  • Break long and complicated steps into shorter ones. A university describes the benefits of classification for writing papers. You start with broader topics and then divide that topic into smaller subtopics. This idea is applicable to all types of educational and instructional writing. 
  • As much as possible, use everyday language. When it's necessary to use technical terms, acronyms, or industry jargon, be sure to define the terms. 
  • Add images where appropriate. For online instructions, including or linking to a video may be helpful. Supporting images can be helpful in printed out instructions as well as online. Showing a photo of a part or process makes it easier to follow.
  • When describing a process that requires parts or equipment, start with a list of everything needed. The traditional format for a recipe is a good model to keep in mind. You start with the ingredients, then describe the steps.

Why Procedures are Important?

Writing procedures and guidelines in a clear manner is essential for allowing employees, students, or volunteers to absorb the information they need to perform tasks. No matter what other resources you provide, there are times when nothing is more helpful than a handy guide to tell users what they need to do next. However, if not put together correctly, written materials can be more confusing than helpful. Make sure you create informative and user-friendly written procedures for your readers. 




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Tim Hatari

Tim Hatari helps businesses improve performance, creating strategic development plans and establishing structure via the 5PX Executive Business Coaching System. As CEO and Founder at TMD Coaching, he oversees the vision setting process with clients, leading on sales acquisition, the drive for operational excellence and market leading innovation. For Tim, helping others is the most rewarding part of the role. Follow or connect with Tim on Linkedin -

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Topics from this blog: Procedure & Structure

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