Posts Tagged ‘how to’

How to Write a Procedure That People Can Follow Easily

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

If you want your users to follow your procedure, you should make it as easy as following their favourite recipe.

The next time you’re cooking, take a look at the recipe. You’ll notice it has three parts:

  • List of ingredients – Tells you what you need to start the recipe
  • Steps – Explains step by step how to prepare the recipe
  • Number of servings – Tells you how many people you can serve

Your procedure can have three parts as well:

Before You Begin: Like the list of ingredients in the recipe, this part tells your users what they need before starting the procedure. Do they need prior knowledge before starting the procedure? Do they need certain materials? Or, do they need to do something to prepare?

Steps: This part tells your users what they need to do first, then second, and so on. Tell them what happens as they go along so that they know if did the right thing. For example, if you’re explaining how to use an application, you can show the windows that appear at critical steps so your users will know they’re in the right place.

Result: Like the number of servings, this part tells your users what to expect. If you tell your users what happens after they perform the procedure, they can check if the right thing happened.

Other Useful Parts You Can Include at the Beginning

Audience: You can tell your users who the procedure is written for. For example, if you indicate which procedures are for Level  1 Support, Level 2 Support and so on, it will save your staff time and frustration from following the wrong procedure.

Purpose: When you tell your users why they need to follow the procedure, it will make more sense to them. They will learn it more quickly and  make fewer mistakes.

But what if my procedure is complex and involves more than one role?

This question is easy to answer. You can have a role table that lists the steps for each role, and it will look something like this:

Role Action
1 Level 1 Support Get the following information from your customer: name, telephone number, workstation number and a description of the problem they are experiencing.
2 Level 2 Support Open the ticket from the Remedy application. If you resolve it, close the ticket. If not, send the ticket to Level 3 Support.
3 Level 3 Support Open the ticket from the Remedy application. If you resolve it, close the ticket. If not, send it to the Senior Developer.

Test Your Procedure

If you want to make sure that your users understand the procedure, have one or two users follow it in front of either you or someone else who understands it. Note where they make their mistakes and ask yourself questions such as: Were all the steps worded properly? Are any steps missing? Is it self-explanatory or clearly explained what happens after each step?

If the users who tested your procedures can follow it, chances are, the other users will be able to follow it too.

A Good Procedure is an Investment

Not all procedures are as easy as a recipe. In fact, some procedures are long and complex.

However, if you take the time to write good procedures for your staff, you will save time and money from training and support. And things will run much more smoothly because your staff will be more productive.

What are your thoughts? How can you tell if a procedure is good or bad? Please share them in the comments.