Elements of Good Process Documentation

Good process documentation usually contains two or more of the following elements:

Background information
Safety precautions
A step-by-step description of what needs to be done.
Critical Parameters
What needs to be considered to make a good decision – Decision Flow

Background Information

Background information provides the operator information that puts their task into context. If the operator is doing one step in a multi-step process it is desirable to give the operator an overview of the entire process and how their step fits in. It is not wise to view people as automatons. If people know what comes before their process and what comes after they can be alert to problems which may not affect their process but will impact on the overall outcome. You want employees that have enough knowledge of the overall process so they can alert management of problems early on when they are easier to correct.

It is also a good idea to include a description of a quality outcome for the process. This is why it is so important to define what the organization is trying to accomplish. Again people are not automatons. If they know what the goals are they are more likely to make better decisions and suggest better ways to do things. Keep in mind that your process operators are the experts on how to get things done in your organization. This is a valuable resource that you should not ignore.

Some processes must be done in a specific order in a specific way. You should include an explanation of why strict adherence to the procedure is needed. The emphasis of this type of background information should explain the consequences of not following the procedure.

For example, a body repair shop may have a procedure for mixing up paint. As part of this process you should tell the operator to check the viscosity before you pour the paint into the paint gun. Then you should tell the operator why this is important. If the viscosity is too high the paint will have a tendency to run when it is applied to the car. If the viscosity is too low the paint will tend to sputter out of the gun causing "globs" in the paint.

Put yourself in the shoes of the paint mixer. Knowing about the importance of the viscosity how likely are you to skip the step if you are under a time crunch? How likely are you to just dump the paint in if you are unable to get the right viscosity?

Safety Precautions

Safety precautions include what the operator needs to know to perform their job safely. This covers a wide variety of subject areas depending on the industry. Some examples include:

• Avoiding Repetitive Stress Injury
• Right to Know - Chemical Safety Training
• Dealing with dangerous customers

The objective here is to make sure your employees know how to perform their job safely. In some cases, such as Employee Right to Know, this information needs to be provided as part of regulatory compliance. In other cases you may need to provide information so that employees can recognize and avoid dangerous situations. If at all possible safety precautions should be designed into an employee’s normal routine.