How to write procedures & policies

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All companies, no matter how large or small, should have procedures & policies, which document the work done. Having strong procedures & policies will help ensure that the quality of the product is the same throughout locations (think McDonald’s hamburgers – they always taste the same wherever you go, don’t they?) or between employees tasked with a certain job. Strong policies and procedures (also known as Standard Operating Procedures or SOPs) are the backbone of any company and are a critical part of a business’ development.

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Writing procedures and policies doesn’t have to be daunting although it might seem that way when one is faced with a blank page or computer screen. The below article will give you a few ideas about how to write the best procedures & policies.

  1. Procedures & policies should be written to document the overview of a process but should not contain a lot of details. The reason for writing procedures and policies this way is so that they can be followed throughout the process without deviation. Deviations from a company’s SOPs must be documents – never a fun task and that means more paperwork. So, write your procedures & policies in a more generic voice. Accompanying documentation (sometimes called Work Practices) is the place to document the actual specifics of the task.

    For example, let’s suppose one works in the Pharmaceutical industry and is in manufacturing. The SOP, which guides the quality testing of the manufactured item, shouldn’t contain exact lot numbers of testing chemicals or non-generic information, such as the ID number of a testing machine. Instead, the type of testing chemical or the type of machinery used for testing may be noted so that, if replacements are needed and a new testing machine is used, the SOP doesn’t have a deviation or have to be rewritten.

  2. Write procedures and policies so that a 5th grader can read them. Writing SOPs is not the place to show off your best vocabulary. Use a thesaurus to “dumb it down” as needed.
  3. If you’re tasked with writing procedures & policies for work duties you physically do not perform, interview the employees who actually do the work. Frequently, the people who are in the trenches know what works and what doesn’t. These people are invaluable in helping you write strong SOPs, which will not need deviations.
  4. Make sure you know who will be signing off on the documentation and give them drafts of your procedures & policies to review and comment upon before expecting them to sign off right there. Senior staff might have booked calendars so allow at least a week for a review.
  5. SOPs usually contain multiple signatures. This creates quite a spider’s nest of comments if one of the signatories requests a change after others have signed. The way to handle this situation is to call a review meeting (after, of course, giving the senior staff that all important week to review the documents). Having everyone in the same room will help get the document finalized.
  6. Make sure every procedure & policy contains the date for each signature, a version number, and a finalized date. Generally, a stamp is used to document the effective date on the original.

Although it might be painful to develop and get sign off on company policies and procedures, spending time and creating strong documentation will definitely pay off in the future.

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How to write procedures & policies, Seekyt
General Contributor
Janice is a writer from Chicago, IL. She created the "simple living as told by me" newsletter with more than 12,000 subscribers about Living Better and is a founder of Seekyt.