Seven Cs to Avoid Procedure Writing Errors
by: Sean Battles
You do your best to make sure your organization is operating as effectively as possible. But if your policies and procedures are incomplete, outdated, or inconsistent, then they are not driving the performance improvement they should. When employees try to use incomplete or undefined procedures, waste and costly errors soon follow.

Case Study: Procedure Mistakes Add Up Quickly

Without knowing it, employees at a local auto parts company were having a costly problem determining when to accept customer credit. The company actually had a detailed credit application procedure, including an exhaustive error correction routine, but the procedure had one fatal flaw: it was not properly indexed.

Indexing Improves Procedures Usability

Without a way to readily locate and reference the applicable procedure in the operations manual, employees could not find it and were simply not using it at all, leading to an inconsistent process and wildly varying output. Potentially valuable customers were regularly turned away by some staff members, while others accepted bad credit risks because they were unsure of which ones to reject.

A small omission like this can add up to thousands of dollars in lost sales and good will. Even the most thorough procedures inevitably have gaps that come from being "too close" to the process or not following the basic rules of effective procedure writing.

Profit from Process Experience

To be effective, procedures must be action oriented, grammatically correct, and written in a consistent style and format to ensure usability. These guidelines, along with industry "best practices" that are documented in auditable criteria, can be used to improve your procedures:

1. Context. Actions must properly describe the activity to be performed.
2. Consistency. All references and terms are used the same way every time, and the procedure must ensure consistent results.
3. Completeness. There must be no information, logic, or design gaps.
4. Control. The document and its described actions demonstrate feedback and control.
5. Compliance. All actions are sufficient for their intended compliance.
6. Correctness. The document must be grammatically correct without spelling errors.
7. Clarity. Documents must be easy to read and understandable.

Quickly Improve Your Policies and Procedures without the Hassle

You can quickly resolve these usability problems and improve performance, and also upgrade your documentation to "best practice" standards without hassles or commitments. By beginning to improve your documents, you will be able to identify areas for improvement. And you can start today with the 7 Cs of “best practices”.

About the author:
Chris Anderson has over 18 years of sales, marketing and business management experience working with business process design, software and systems engineering for over ten years - consulting with companies large and small. He is also co-author of policies and procedures manual products, assisting in the layout, process design and implementation of the information. Visit:

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