What is a Procedure?
The word procedure refers to actions that should be carried out in a prescribed manner to accomplish the desired outcome. The steps and their order represent the usual, correct, or accepted means or method for achieving the particular outcome. Get the best Procedure Writing Services in Kenya and Africa at Due Process Consulting Ltd.
Other terms commonly used to refer to procedures are operating procedures, standard operating procedures [SOPs], and work instructions.
Procedures are necessary in any environment where order and uniformity are desired and/or the results are important enough to warrant guidelines on the acceptable way of achieving them. Procedures help implement the organization’s policies.
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“The magic of procedure: do this after that and thus before so; then your wish will be granted”. – Mason Cooley
When Are Written Procedures Required?
Though written procedures are very important in an organization, they may not be necessary for certain situations e.g., in very small organizations or very basic routine operations.
Here is a list of some of the circumstances under which written procedures are necessary:
- Outcome is important to the organization or any of its stakeholders
- Subject matter has legal or regulatory implications
- The operation involves complexity
- The operation involves handoffs between humans and/or between humans and technology systems
- The operation exposes the organization to significant risk
- Where little or no variation is tolerable
- Where actors involved are not experts in performing the operation
- Where standard operations are necessary or desired.
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“You will never understand bureaucracies until you understand that for bureaucrats, the procedure is everything and outcomes are nothing”. – Thomas Sowell
Examples of Procedures
Many types of procedures exist in organizations, depending on the organization’s mission and goals.
The list below contains ten examples of some common procedures in organizations:
1. New product development procedure
2. Production procedure
3. Procurement procedure
4. Data backup procedure
5. Complaints handling procedure
6. Employee hiring procedure
7. Employee disciplinary procedure
8. Sales procedure
9. Accounts receivable procedure
10. Accounts payable procedure
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“There is no generally accepted procedure in identifying UFO”. – Toba Beta
Who Defines Procedures?
Procedures in an organization are usually developed by subject matter experts and approved by authorized officials such as supervisors, managers, directors, and proprietors, depending on the subject matter and nature of the organization.
Procedures can also be developed and/or approved by a body such as a committee.
To come up with sound procedures, adequate knowledge and experience in the subject matter are necessary. However, regardless of who drafts a procedure, most organizations will have a policy on who must authorize the procedure, for it to become operational.
The person or body coming up with procedures may need the assistance of a procedure writing expert. This is to ensure the procedures are documented in a professional manner and are thus fit-for-purpose.
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“In Korea, the director has the final word. If the director makes a decision, that decision is final. In Hollywood, every decision needs to go through the producer, the studio, and sometimes even the main actor. There is a certain procedure that needs to be followed”. – Kim Jee-woon
What Guides Creation of Procedures?
The development of procedures within an organization is usually informed by many factors. The list below contains some of the most common ones:
- Past/industry experience
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“Almost all quality improvement comes via simplification of design, manufacturing layout, processes, and procedures”. – Tom Peters
What Are the Qualities of a Good Procedure?
If not well-conceived, documented, and implemented, procedures can cause more problems than they sort for the organization.
A good procedure should:
- Be tried and tested
- Be clear, concise, and easily legible and understandable by the target audience
- Approved by relevant authorized parties
- Be communicated to the target audience in a timely manner, and through appropriate means
- Clearly specify the scope of application
- Be consistent with organization policies and other procedures i.e., not contradictory
- Be complete, covering subject matter from beginning to end
- Not be unduly complicated
- Comply with applicable laws and regulations
- Have an effective date when its implementation commences
- Bear an authorized signature or other appropriate evidence of approval
- Not unduly restrict creativity and flexibility
- Be reviewed periodically to ensure it remains relevant
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“Something is wrong if workers do not look around each day, find things that are tedious or boring, and then rewrite the procedures. Even last month’s manual should be out of date”. – Taiichi Ohno
How Are Procedures Published?
Procedures must be communicated to the target audience in a timely and appropriate manner and be readily accessible for reference on a need basis.
Here are some of the ways organizations document and communicate procedures to employees:
1. Procedures manual
2. Policy and procedures manual
3. Standard operating procedures [SOPs]
4. Work instructions
Soft copies of the documents are usually availed through:
3. Policies and procedures management system
4. Electronic document management system [EDMS]
Business Process Management Suite [BPMS]
Publishing a procedure may entail updating the existing procedures manual and bringing the change to the attention of the relevant audience. It may also entail issuing a new procedures manual.
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“Procedure follows this law: It doesn’t matter how much damage there is. If the right part fails, expect collapse”. – Lindsey Drager
What Are the Critical Success Factors for Implementation of Procedures?
Here are some of the critical success factors for effective implementation of procedures in an organization:
1. Communication and training
3. Resources and support mechanisms
4. Feedback mechanisms
5. Monitoring and control
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“The fundamental criterion for judging any procedure is the justice of its likely results”. – John Rawls
Do You Need Procedures Management Software?
There are several software applications available to help organizations effectively manage their procedures.
Some of the functions of procedures management software are:
- Eliminating or reducing paperwork
- Aiding creation and distribution of procedures
- Facilitating attestation by employees that they have read and understood procedures
- Providing a repository for procedures
- Facilitating review and approval of procedures
- Automated workflows
- Coordinating updates to procedures
- Supporting compliance to laws and regulations
- Facilitating audit of procedures
- Securing company procedures against unauthorized access
- Ease of searching for specific procedures
- Version control
- Reports on the management of the organization’s procedures
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“I’ve always maintained that it isn’t the form that’s going to make the difference. It isn’t the rule or the procedure or the ideology, but it’s human beings that will make it”. – Cesar Chavez
What Are the Benefits of Effective Management of Organization Procedures?
Effective management of procedures in an organization comes with many benefits, some of which are listed below:
- Ease of access to information to solve problems quickly and reduce downtime
- Avoidance of confusion and disputes at the workplace
- Enhanced productivity
- Standard operations
- Better risk management
- Compliance with laws and regulations
- Consistency and efficiency
- Cost reduction resulting from efficient operations
- Defense and evidence in court cases
- Employee empowerment and clarity of expectations
- Employee induction and training
- Enhanced responsibility and accountability for decisions and actions
- Clear chain of command for orderly operations
- Creating a foundation for continuous process improvement
- Better quality products/services
- Improved knowledge management and retention
- Basis for performance management
- Better change management
- Protection of employer’s assets.
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