Getting Procedures Right

This weeks blog post

Getting Procedures Right

Often the biggest frustrations in a quality management system are policy and procedure. Too many, not enough, can’t find them, duplication, the list of problems seems endless.

Many people contact me when their document framework is just too overwhelming, it’s become a dinosaur.

How to fix a document framework dinosaur

Over the years as legislation and requirements change its common for your policy and procedure framework to become overwhelming.

Common problems include:

  • Too many policies which are a review and approval burden on the Board
  • Outdated procedures
  • Duplication of information across procedures
  • Old forms and multiples of the same form

The best way to fix an outdated, overwhelming document system?

  1. Find out what you have - map existing policy and procedure
  2. Get rid of the old - archive anything out of date
  3. Update the rest - consolidate and update to reduce documents

Sometimes it can feel like an overwhelming job, but when you remember to undertake the initial mapping exercise it can make the process much easier.

Process Mapping

Process mapping occurs prior to procedure writing so that procedures have a natural start and finish point. This supports a logical order which promotes ease of access to information when people read the procedure.

This important step is vital for:

  • ensuring all steps are included
  • involving team members to get it right first time
  • finding inefficiencies
  • removing unnecessary steps

The important thing to remember is that you must involve the team, often they have worked out a better way to do the process!

Procedure Writing

Once you are ready to write the procedures its important to make sure you have a process, it will save you time in the long run. The story of Sarah is a great example of why you need a document framework and system.

Sarah was asked to write the procedures for her new program. After six weeks and many hours of work the procedure manual was ready.

When reviewing the manual it was discovered that Sarah's procedures were:

  • sitting outside of organisation policy
  • duplicating or contradicting existing procedures
  • not linked to legislation and funding requirements
  • too long

The main issues was that Sarah wasn't provided with a framework to work too.

Not everyone is naturally gifted to write procedures but its important that they are given the tools to do it well.

Make sure your organisation has a document framework that includes:

  1. structure
  2. responsibilities
  3. templates
  4. approval processes
  5. review processes

It’s also important to make sure that people who are involved in writing procedures get it right.

Procedure writing is not for everyone.

Amazingly some people don’t even like doing it (raised eyebrows in disbelief)

If you are asking people to write their procedures make sure you follow these steps:

  1. Provide access to all external requirements - current legislation, standards etc
  2. Make sure they have expertise in this area and are aware of best practice
  3. Map the process with the team
  4. Consult with stakeholders and customers 

Too often we ask people who are not content experts or process owners to write procedures for us and this can leave you with gaps and inefficiencies.

Procedures are an important part of a quality management system but always remember:

  • Procedures are the lowest form of risk control
  • Process map before procedure writing
  • Keep it simple