When to write a procedure

I’m sure that most of us have at some stage in our career had the opportunity to smile about the ability of our organization to churn out procedures that no-one will probably ever use.

If you agree with the above statement then you will also agree that at the heart of procedure writing lays the issue of consensus/agreement.

In order for any procedure to be successful, one needs the people that must follow the procedure to agree on the following:

  1. A standard way of performing a specific activity is needed in order to improve the current situation,
  2. The best way to perform the activity has been identified,
  3. It is necessary to put the procedure to paper. (Maybe it is an ISO/OHSAS standard requirement and it is proof in a court of law.)

If there is a lack of consensus on any one of these issues then there is a chance that some-one in your organisation might have the urge to smile.

There is a tool that you can use to keep the smiles off their faces and it is called the Consensus Chart.

You can use the chart to drive improvement activities identified during the development or operation of your Occupational Health and Safety system process. In fact, you can probably use it in any situation where you are implementing a system.

It can be used for facilitating, obtaining buy-in and standardising to achieve a more comprehensively documented and effective process.

So when is it the best time to pull out the Consensus Chart?

* Continual improvement – In any system, issues and continual improvement opportunities will arise and need to be prioritised and addressed.

* Differences of opinion – The bigger the process or activity, the more people will be involved and as you know, every-one has their own opinion. It may be necessary to align personal preferences before progress can be made.

* Desire to optimize documentation – Documenting your Health and Safety system is a good thing but sometimes, writing less is more.

* Team work – We all know that any Health and Safety system is only as strong as the team that supports it. Use your chart to keep the team focused and pulling in the same direction.

* Complex processes or activities that interact with other processes/activities – If there was ever a good reason to get consensus, this is it.So you have identified a great opportunity to use your new Consensus Chart, what’s next?

Assemble a cross-functional team of those who own the process and those most affected by the process. Compile and describe each issue and the current situation surrounding each issue.

Then, ask two yes-or-no questions:

  1. Do we want to standardize?
  2. Is there consensus about best practices?

The answers can be separated into four quadrants with the following titles:

  1. Hold meetings to work out differences – Standardization is desired, but consensus has not yet been achieved.
  2. Write a procedure, communicate and train – Standardization is desired, and there is already consensus. This is where process improvements are made.
  3. Let there be variation – There is no need to standardise and also there is no consensus. Nothing more is required at this stage.
  4. Everyone agrees – There is no need to standardise, and there is consensus.

Once you are able to assign an issue to a specific quadrant, part of the resolution process might be to move it to another quadrant. Issues in quadrant 4 may be moved to quadrant 3 or 2.

It is important to note that the movement is based on whether it is beneficial to document the issue’s resolution, in other words, is it time to write a procedure?

Issues in quadrant 1 can be moved to quadrant 2 once consensus is achieved.


One thought on “When to write a procedure

  1. hi ben. is there an easier way to write a policy statement? i just did my samtrac and I did’nt succeed i seem to struggle with words getting the right thing to say. can you please help me

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