In order to complete tasks within your business, there are procedures that must be followed.
You might say that businesses only find their ways to function daily, but you are wrong. All businesses, be it big or small, follow procedures.
It goes without saying that procedures are a must for any business out there.
What’s A Procedure?
Before we proceed, we have to define what a procedure is first.
By definition, procedure is a series of actions conducted in a certain order or manner. It involves a series of steps that are in an absolute order. Ideally, these steps need to be followed in order to complete a certain task. In some cases, steps may be skipped, repeated, or there might even be steps that would require you to select between two options.
A procedure is especially needed if a task is a lengthy one, and might cause some confusion and error. This will help the one who’ll do the task to be in check.
Recipes are a perfect example of a procedure. You have to follow each step provided for you to achieve the food you wish to cook.
Advantages Of Established Procedures
If a task is quite short and simple, then a procedure may not be needed. However, if the task is lengthy and has a lot of room for committing mistakes, then, a procedure should be in place.
There are a lot of advantages to having a procedure deployed within your business. Here are some of them:
A procedure provides steps and directions on how to do certain tasks
This will be helpful in having consistent output quality
Minimise errors by being kept in check
Preempts questions from team members who are not familiar with the task; even new members of the team would be able to do the task because of the established procedure
As time passed by, it will make team members be more efficient in doing tasks because of familiarity with the steps
Here in Global VA Solutions, we teach our clients and give guidance on how to create the most effective procedure for their businesses.
How To Effectively Write Procedures
It is easy to create a procedure since you will just be documenting the steps that you take to do certain tasks. However, there are factors that you need to consider when writing your procedure.
What’s Your Goal?
First off is to know your goal. You may already know your goal on top of your head, but it would be helpful for it to be documented. This way, your team members will also be aware of your goals.
You also have to distinguish whether these are short term or long term goals.
Your goal will be the one to keep you on track. When thinking of your goal, ask yourself this: “What do I want to achieve out of this?”.
Who’s Your Audience?
Why is this important? Think of it this way, if you have a team working with you in your business, not all of them will be able to fully understand your procedures. Different folks, different strokes, hence the importance of knowing your audience.
There are members who understand your procedures quickly. Then, there are those who will need more time to grasp these steps.
When writing your procedures, you have to make sure that it is easily understandable by the majority of your team members. Lastly, if there are members who will ask questions, or provide feedback, make sure to be open to these.
What’s Your Scope?
Being able to define the scope and limitations of your procedure is a must. This way, different procedures within your business do not get mixed up.
Have Specific Instructions
When creating your steps for a procedure, ensure that you are putting specific descriptions and instructions. Going back to the example earlier, recipes are an example of a procedure. Whenever you see a recipe, you will notice that the steps provided are really specific, e.g. 1 cup sugar to be added while stirring the pot, etc.
The same applies to procedures within a business. This way, the room for mistakes would be minimised. It is better to be over-detailed, than to be general with your steps and instructions.
Decide On Your Format
Part of creating an effective procedure is having an easy-to-read format. Imagine creating a procedure with twenty steps in a single paragraph format. That can be a cause for confusion.
The best formats to use for procedures are bulleted or numbered steps. You can also highlight important steps by putting them in italics. For steps that you think are easy to miss out which could cause some oversight, put them in bold.
Apart from these, you should also space out your steps in a way that your reader will find it easy to follow. Do not scrunch three steps in one sentence, or, do not separate two sentences that are a part of a single step.
There are other formats that you could potentially go to. The bottom line here is that you have to put your procedure in a format that would be easy to read, and easy to understand at the same time.
Tips To Create Effective Procedures
Check With Subject Matter Experts
When you are writing a procedure for a task or subject that you are not very familiar with, then talk to someone who’s an expert of that specific subject. Do not hesitate to look for someone who knows the subject better than you do. If you will decide on pushing through with the subject despite your unfamiliarity, it will definitely cause some loopholes in your procedure.
Seek advice from those who know the task really well. This way, you are guaranteed not to leave out any steps.
Test The Procedure Yourself
A procedure will only be proven effective once it has been tested.
Once you’ve already created your procedure, be it drafted or finalised, make sure that you test it out yourself. This way you would know which steps are missing, which steps are redundant and therefore should be removed, which steps should be added, etc.
You could also ask your team to try out the procedure you’ve created. Then, ask for feedback from your team members. Another pair of eyes would be helpful in improving your procedure.
Once you’ve tested and have gathered feedback from your team, then, it’s time to amend your procedure as necessary.
When creating your procedures, do not beat around the bushes. Go straight to the point and be concise with your instructions. Having flowery sentences will not really help make your procedure easy to understand. If anything, it will be more confusing.
State what needs to be done within a specific step. At most, indicate what will happen if that step is missed out.
Be Wary With Technical Terms
You may be very familiar with a subject or task that you got carried away with the terms that you’ve used. Remember the point we’ve raised above? Know your audience.
Not everyone who will read your procedure will be well-versed with the subject’s technical terms. Use common terms that will not require your team members to Google what that word means.
This is a common mistake for procedure authors: usage of technical terms or jargons. Some procedure authors think that it makes them appear smart by using technical terms, when in reality it doesn’t.
Parts Of A Procedure
A procedure in itself has parts that you need to figure out before creating the steps. This way, it will be more presentable.
Here are the different parts of a procedure:
It is a no brainer that your procedure should have a title. Having said that, make sure that you use the most appropriate title. Do not use a title just for the sake of having a title.
Imagine a procedure for recording a video, and your title is somewhere along the lines of “Video Procedure”. If your team members will see the file’s title, then they would be asking themselves what that file is all about. They know that it is a procedure. They know that it is about videos. However, they wouldn’t know what it’s about unless they open the file and skim through it.
As mentioned previously, you also have to state the procedure’s goal, e.g. after this task you should be able to record your video effectively.
It is also important for you to let your audience know which resources they will need to have access to. These resources include tools, apps, documents, files, websites, etc.
The goal here is to make it easy for your audience to know which resources they need to prepare before they start the task. This way, doing the task will be more efficient, rather than figuring out the tools they need every step of the way.
Now comes the best part, the steps. After you’ve indicated the title, goal and resources, it’s now time to create the steps needed to complete the task.
It was already mentioned above that your steps have to be concise and specific. Try your best to remember all the steps necessary to complete the task. This way, you could lessen the potential oversight committed while doing the task.
Once you’ve already inputted everything within your document, it’s just a matter of reading it again to see if there are any last minute changes you need to do. After which, you may now try and test the procedure by doing the task and following the steps you’ve indicated in it.
Always remember that procedures are here to make everything in your business as systematic as possible. By documenting how you do tasks, it will empower you and your team, while at the same time giving accountability to whoever will be doing the task.
Lastly, if you wish to build a team of superstar VAs, do not hesitate to book a free, no commitment consultation call with us. We will not only source, hire and train your VA for you, we will also give guidance on how you can improve your business.
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