A Recipe for Well-Done Procedures

Seven steps that help reduce time, costs and confusion

by Steven Stein

Procedures are the bread and butter of any organization because they explain how employees are expected to do things. How many times, however, are the procedures only half-baked? How many times are they unclear or incomplete?

If a procedure is poorly prepared, staff members will take one bite, hate the taste and quickly tell co-workers about the experience. Should the procedure be a requirement, staff will reluctantly follow it but fight its originator on each step every time the procedure is carried out. To assure that procedures are not only implemented but that they are also effective, efficient and accepted by employees, consider following a procedures recipe (see sidebar "Creating the Correct Procedure the First Time").

Serving tip

Procedures are best served on an intranet or the Internet because a computer eliminates the need for large, intimidating procedure manuals. These manuals have all the appeal of a dead raccoon and will surely not be used by staff.

Because Web-based procedures are virtual, a staff member simply doesn't use any links that refer to unneeded procedures. With a paper system, however, staff must maintain and house every procedure--whether the procedures are needed or not. (Think of these unneeded procedures as leftovers that the user doesn't want.) Electronic formats also assure that the procedures stay fresh because changes can be easily made and immediately distributed.

The proof is in the pudding

How well does this recipe work? Following this process, Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, NY, developed 21 procedures in one month. The total time per procedure averaged 60 hours for the combined work of all contributors. The participants unanimously agreed that this process was superior to the company's previous process, which took between one and two months.

Brookhaven's old process called for one person to develop the procedure and as many as 10 others to review it. The process averaged 75 total hours because the originator had to resolve the comments and route the procedure for a second review. And because the procedures were sometimes developed with little or no input from actual users, implementing them was difficult and required another 20 hours of rewrites.

With this new recipe, Brookhaven was able to whip up a set of procedures with less effort and without burning the batch.

STEVEN STEIN is a quality management specialist with Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, NY. He has a bachelor's degree in chemistry from Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY. Stein is an environmental management systems auditor, and an ASQ certified quality engineer and quality auditor. He is a Senior Member of ASQ.

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