Documentation can reveal a lot about a company. Good internal process documentation often shows that a company is organized, prepared, and cares about quality. Poor documentation of procedures leads to many issues for an organization, not only when it comes to meeting compliance standards, but also with consistency, communication, and quality control.
Ensuring standard operating procedures, SOPs, are recorded and used properly should be routine for companies. But first, understanding the purpose the SOP serves is key to an effective writing process and maximizing usability.
Well-written standard operating procedures are easy to identify because they are clear, concise, descriptive, and accurate. This professional technical writing approach makes employee training easier and ensures efficiency on the job, due to its focus on usability. No matter the industry or company, successful SOPs do the following:
- Answer the primary questions of who, what, why, when, and how
- Provide content that can be easily memorized
- Match instructions given to employees
- Evolve as company processes do
- Eliminate confusion and missteps
Unfortunately, there are many wrong ways SOPs can be written as well. In many cases, documentation isn't considered a priority or investment in training employees on the procedures is overlooked. There is often a disconnect in companies — knowing the impact and importance of consistent processes, but not recognizing the critical effort to create user-friendly procedures and supporting documentation.
By not giving procedures the appropriate effort, many companies fall into traps of poor SOP writing habits, which include:
- Overlooking the importance of documentation
- Forgetting about the audience you are writing for
- Skipping process steps, even if they seem obvious or insignificant
- Using confusing language that can have multiple meanings
- Overwriting or making the process longer than necessary
Following simple guidelines when writing and implementing standard operating procedures can increase effectiveness in both the documentation and its use. To help design your SOPs, we have created a worksheet that walks users through the content creation process.
To ensure better writing habits in standard operating procedures…