The effectiveness of an organisation often depends on clear, well-written policies and procedures. Poorly written policies and procedures can result in stress, poor performance and costly mistakes. They can even put lives at risk.
What is the difference between a policy and a procedure?
Policies present the big picture - they give broad guidelines that tell you how the organisation intends to operate. Policies relate to the ‘what' and the ‘why'. For example, giving refunds for faulty goods could be an organisation's policy.
A policy is usually written in paragraph form with headings to break up the text.
Procedures are specific, detailed step-by-step instructions. They are action-oriented and tell you ‘how'. You would use a procedure to carry out a task at work (for example, the steps involved in giving a refund for a faulty item).
Procedures can be written in a number of different formats such as a flow chart, a table, a step-by-step series of points (outline).
Make sure you only have one action in a step. Steps in a procedure that contain more than one action confuse the reader and bury the message.
1. Locate part A
2. Locate part B
3. Insert B into A
4. Turn the handle to the left
5. Tighten the screw
After locating parts A and B, insert B into A while turning the handle to the left and tightening the screw.
Starting instructions with a verb (doing word) will also make the procedure easier to follow.
Submit timesheets weekly
Employees should submit their timecards weekly
Always write your procedure for the person who knows least about the task, then test it to see whether users can understand it - it's easy to overlook steps, or assume knowledge.
Taking some time now to get your policies and procedures in shape will save you time in the long-run and is worth the effort.
To find out about policy and procedure packages call Patricia Hoyle, Director of Concise Writing Consultancy on 9360 3005.
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