At some point in the life of your quality management system you will need to document how something is done (I say 'document' but these principles will apply to whatever format you use—written, video, voice or picture). Developing a procedure requires a delicate balancing act—too little information and you may not be controlling risk effectively, or your procedure may be plain wrong. Too much information, though, and staff will just tune it out. Here are a few tips on how to write one that works:
1. Start with a scope, criteria and objective, or, the who, what and why—who does the procedure relate to? What does it connect with (link with standards, legislation, guidelines)? And why does it exist? For example:
Procedure: Client Review and Re-assessment
Scope: Services providing Home Care Packages.
Criteria: Home Care Guidelines (August 2013).
Objective: To ensure that all clients are reviewed / re-assessed in a timely and cost-effective manner according to their need.
2. I've talked before about using flowcharts to document procedures—specifically, I think swim lane flowcharts are good because they show who is responsible for particular tasks (Visio is best for creating these types of flowcharts). If you're not into flowcharts, however, lists can also work well if you need your procedure to be in written form.
One thing to remember when creating a procedure is to ensure that you have carefully considered everything that goes in, and will come out, of the process you are documenting. This is not a new formula by any means, but one that I find simple and helpful:
Inputs - Actions - Outputs - (Outcomes - optional).
Inputs are transformed by actions into outputs. So for a referral procedure, you might have an intake form (the input), which, after it's been completed, becomes the output (a completed intake form filed in the new client's file, for example. Specifying inputs and outputs is useful as it ensures that your staff are clear on what they need to use, and what should be the result of their actions.
3. Ensure that you make connections to other relevant procedures and forms, the purpose being that if you make a change to one you will know what other documents need changing. If you have the time or inclination, documenting these in a documents register or similar makes for quick referencing when documents are changed.
4. I cannot stress this enough—document control! Put a version number and date on everything. Remember, you are controlling risk by documenting your processes. You are also ensuring that your processes meet legislation, standards, guidelines, etc. You need to be sure that your staff are using the right documents and doing the right thing.
Helping organisations set up or review their processes and documents is part of the service that The Quality Nerd provides, so if you do need help, please contact me—I know it can feel overwhelming. But you can achieve much by keeping it simple.
Thanks for reading,
The Quality Nerd loves all things Quality Management and Internal Audit...too much is never enough!