1 May 2013
Wiktionary defines a procedure as 'a particular method for performing a certain task'.
One may notice that the world of procedures is closely related to the world of Knowledge Management:
Procedures reflect the organization's important core knowledge and are therefore part of the Knowledge Management array.
Simultaneously, procedures are documents and as such KM techniques can improve their writing and mainly their clarity and comprehensibility and readability.
One of the fields I have dealt with the most this last year has been dealing with procedures. The term 'procedure' is interpreted differently in different organizations (varying in resolution and purpose of use) yet all share a common denominator-they are loaded, occasionally outdated and no one really wants to/is available to deal with them. Nevertheless, an organization's procedures are vitally important. They define the work method, provide uniformity to tasks performed by several people and are relied on in cases of external criticism/lawsuits/clients authorization etc.
In this article, I wish to share my experience with procedures as an outsider consultant ‘visiting’ and the positive process created in the organization as a result of improving the procedures. I will conclude with sharing my tips for keeping the procedure updated and effective.
I come to the organization in order to perform a facelift on the procedure; this facelift is supposed to ease understanding the procedure and therefore increase the chances the worker uses it.
I receive the procedure. After a short read and review I convert the content to a format known as a 'smart document'. In this document the content is organized in a more accessible, comfortably read manner. The 'smart document' includes a main map that assists the reader in understanding if he/she reached the correct procedures as well as informs the user of what the procedure includes and assists in orientation. The rest of the document is organized in a format of reader-friendly knowledge nuggets. They are reader-friendly both due to the simple, concise content writing method and due to icons.
Sometimes, I am unsure of the meaning of a procedure or the best way to present it. I then turn to the procedure's manager. She/he is my partner in the process. I complete the rewriting. When this stage is complete, the procedure is sent back to the organization in order to be reviewed and completed by the professional managers.
Then begins a process I refer to as 'dust cleaning'. The procedure's manager needs to approve the procedure. We are seemingly not altering any content, yet reviewing the updated procedure raises more than a few questions that the organization is not always aware of when the content is buries in a insufficiently accessible manner. This stage, which is not always easy but is of vital importance, leads to uniformity in the work processes of different factors in the organization, bridging gaps in the work process and raises the sub-processes that are performed without any official documentation.
Dust cleaning eventually leads to increasing the organization's efficiency
My edge is that when I come as an outsider consultant is double: I am versed in the unique methodology of friendly accessibility, but equally important: I'm objective when reviewing the procedure; I'm not fixated on the organization's current conception nor am I emotionally connected to the issue. It is therefore easier for me to change the procedure's structure if required in order for the procedure to ‘flow’ logically. It is easier for me to ask about content missing from the procedure in order for it to indeed be whole and comprehensive and will serve both new and veteran workers.
A few tips for a successful process:
Prior to the work process: it is important to recruit the relevant professional managers and explain the importance of the issue and its benefits to the organization.
Following the completion of the process: The writing and updating process may be short and simple yet it resembles a diet: it's easy to lose the weight; it's hard to maintain the positive status. By this I mean that for a procedure to remain updated and effective it’s important to appoint a professional manager or define a time period in which a review and validation of the procedure will be performed (in accordance with the dynamics of changes in the organization) in order to keep the procedure updated and relevant over time. It is important to teach the procedure manager the skills required in using Microsoft Word (or any other word processor) for further work in the new format. This Format may be simple yet for those who are unfamiliar with it, it can be stressful and threatening. Eventually, working in the new format will enable validating and updating more easily and more quickly.
In conclusion, procedures are part of the organization's important knowledgebase and should be aptly regarded. This is not as seemingly difficult. Sometimes, all you have to do is to get started. Once started, you can't stop.