Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Procedures That Jog, Not Clog

Looking to make 2012 a productive year for your department or company? Start with five powerful steps to help slim down written procedures, saving your company time and money.
1. Include only what’s needed.
Start from zero. Assume no information is needed. Then add only what is required by law, contract, or prudent business practice. Ask yourself, “Would any harm come to the company if we leave out the information?” If the answer is “No,” don’t include it. Ask, “Would any harm come if we leave it in?” If the answer is “Yes,” leave it out or send it somewhere else.

2. Write active sentences.  
Don’t wear out readers with long, passive sentences. Be direct: Tell who is responsible for what.
Passive: It is a good idea to have extended code included in the manual that has been revised.
Active: Include extended code in the revised manual.

3. Leave out forms.
Companies revise forms often. If a procedure includes a form, and the form changes, the procedure must be revised too. Simply refer to a form by name or number. Speaking of forms, place instructions on the form itself, close to the user, not in the procedure. Better yet, make forms so clear, users won’t need instructions.

4. Review procedures regularly. 
Obsolete procedures are not only useless, they’re expensive. Rework caused by out-of-date procedures can cost plenty. So can liability when companies no longer do what their procedures say they do. Consider adopting an automatic cancellation policy: If a procedure is important to keep, it’s important to keep current.

5. Place procedures online. 
If your company has a network, place procedures online. Print information only as needed. Online information retrieval systems, such as web-based, save much of the cost of printing, maintenance, filing, and storage. Electronic searching saves time.

Blogging with Bliss blogger, Dr. Adrienne Escoe, is the president and owner of Escoe Bliss Professional Resources and a policy and procedure expert. 

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