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What is a procedure?

This post will provide you with basic knowledge about a procedure. If you look in a typical dictionary, it will tell you that a procedure is a particular way of accomplishing a task or a series of steps followed in a particular order.

However, a procedure is more than a simple series of steps taken to complete a specific task. So let us briefly explore:

When we write about a procedure in this article we generally describe a “written procedure”. Not all procedures need to be written down, but writing down your procedures is one of the better ways to gain all benefits of procedures.

Please note: A procedure should not be confused with a process.

Why do we need procedures?

We need procedures to ensure that tasks are completed in a consistent manner and with as little risk of errors as possible. Procedures provide clear action plans for your team and are generally considered the way to ensure proper implementation of company policies.

If you implement written procedures you’ll also enjoy some or all of the following benefits:

  • Retain and transfer knowledge.
  • Easier to optimize tasks and processes (reduced cost for continuous improvement).
  • Easier to train new/existing staff (reduced training cost).
  • Reducing errors.
  • Reduce cost.
  • Increase productivity.

Some sources suggest that employee satisfaction may also increase by implementing clear procedures for the tasks in your business. The logic here is that employees will find work more satisfying as they can potentially make fewer mistakes and work more independently (without a manager telling them what to do or answering the same questions continuously).

When should we consider making a written procedure?

There are many good reasons to implement written procedures for many of the tasks in your business. Here are a few of those reasons:

  • Complexity: Do you consider the task complex when considering the amount of training your employees have in the task?
  • Length: Is the task lengthy or are there interruptions/pauses when the task is performed?
  • Number: Do many employees perform the task?
  • Variation: Do different employees perform the task differently (small or large variations)?
  • Criticality: Is the task critical for your business, a product or a process?
  • Safety: Could people be hurt or property be damaged if the task is not performed correctly?

If any (or all) of the above are true for your task, then you may benefit from a written procedure.

To help you evaluate your procedure needs, we have created The Procedure Quiz. Try it now and find out if you should create written procedures.

Components of a procedure

A (written) procedure should have at least the following components:

  • Title: A short name so you can easily identify the procedure.
  • Mini-mission statement: A short introduction of what the procedure accomplishes and possibly also tied to an applicable (company) policy. This will provide a valuable context for the procedure.
  • A description of the steps needed to complete the task with the intended result.
    • The steps (actions) can be written as paragraphs, a list or in other ways.
    • The individual steps in the procedure must be detailed enough for the applicable person to complete the task reliably.

The steps in the procedure description must answer the following questions:

  • Who performs the action?
  • What is the action? (e.g. a title for the step)
  • Where is the action completed?
  • When is the action completed?
  • How is the action completed?

Some of these things may be implied – e.g. the who may be implied because everything is performed by the same person.

You may also want to include other things like the tools required to complete a certain action.

Conclusion and examples

You now know that procedures are important and can have a huge benefit for your business if implemented in a correct and timely fashion.

Make sure that you use clear and concise language in your procedures. Always have a colleague read your draft procedure before you publish it.

If you want to learn more about procedures, please have a look at our other articles about procedures or start a self-study course. Also have a look at our article with examples of procedures.

Featured image: Designed by Freepik

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