Have you ever tried to follow a recipe and get to the last instruction only to find it lists an ingredient that wasn’t on the original list and even worse --- it’s not in your cupboard? There is nothing worse than bad instructions!
In the workplace poor instructions confuse the person trying to complete the task – and then frustrate the person giving the instructions. Both parties lose out. This is especially the case with office procedures.
Instructions should be written with the goal of helping staff do their job efficiently and accurately. This in turn means the job will get done correctly – the first time.
There is more to it than just writing down the steps of any procedure. Here are some tips to help you when developing your office procedures.
Quality procedures include a consistent format across all documents
Do you have a set format for your business instructions? The answer should be ‘yes’ and they should include
Remember, to find out what format works best in your business, ask your users – they will always provide you with the most constructive feedback.
Quality procedures should be easy to follow
Only include the facts! Don’t go into long explanations as this will create confusion and the instructions will be hard to follow. Consider the following two sets of instructions for inserting paper into a photocopier.
Example 1 - Insert 1/3 of a ream of paper into the tray marked with an ‘A’. Close the tray when complete.
Example 2 - Make sure that you very carefully open the package of paper and gathering about 200 sheets of paper, locate the tray with an “A” on it and then open it and then put the paper into the tray, before closing the tray.
Remember, the level of detail will change depending on the complexity of the task and the importance of the procedure.
Only include the mandatory steps in your instructions. Personal preferences can come later!
Quality instructions have user input
Have your most experienced team member write the first draft.
Have your least experienced team member complete the task according to the first draft.
When the instructions are clear and defined, then make sure they follow the standard company formatting protocols as discussed above.
Quality instructions should be updated regularly
The best processes are those that are continually improved. Gather feedback often and be willing and open to the opinions of the users.
In fact, involvement of your users in the writing process will always produce a higher quality product.
Now get to it!