Identifying and mapping out all of your processes is the first and probably most crucial step in creating a set of structured procedures. It gives you your framework and your roadmap for the journey ahead. Once you have identified your structure you can work systematically to fill in the detail. Although it may change a little along the way, if it is done well to begin with, your overall structure will stay essentially the same. You can reference it to set goals for achieving the order you desire and to monitor progress. This article takes you through the process for creating that structure.
Typical Business Functions:
- Financial Services
- Human Resources
- Asset Management
Identify Major Business Functions
The first step in identifying what procedures you need is to identify major business functions. This broad grouping will be similar no matter what type of business you are in, though each company may call the departments by different names. Talk to a senior manager to find out the overall structure of the business and ensure you use their terminology.
Operations may be broken into:
Break Into Sub-Groups
Each of these groups can be broken down into sub-functions, which, depending on the size of your organization, may be broken down further. Information for the breakup this far can generally be gleaned from a manager from each area. Sales may be broken into Field Teams and In-House Teams then different product groups. Processing may be broken into areas such as:
or lines that produce different product or packaging types.
Identify Roles and Tasks Associated with Each Role
- On a typical day
- At the beginning of the day
- At the end of the day
- At the end of the week
- Under special circumstances (such as shut downs, emergencies, when things go wrong, or for specific products)
- On different shifts
List the number of roles for each area identified above. Sometimes each person will represent a different role, but in larger businesses you may have several operators who perform the same tasks, either on the same or different shifts. Select a role or an area to focus on to begin with. Now, make sure you speak to someone who actually fufills each role. Don’t speak only to their manager, because in most cases managers look at the bigger picture and may overlook certain tasks. Go to where the person works and talk through what they do. Being in their work environment will help trigger their memories. Make sure you check if different tasks are performed on different shifts.
List the tasks performed by each role.
You may need to ask for some detail on each task to get an idea of how complex they are and whether they should be broken into smaller procedures.
Breakup or Group Procedures
To ensure procedures are not too long, break up large tasks into smaller, logical chunks of time. Each task may take from around 10 minutes or up to around an hour to complete. When you have much longer, complex tasks, look for the natural breaks, and break them up accordingly. If you have tasks that take a long period of time, because there is waiting time, or it is repetitive, but they are not complex, it is fine to keep them as one procedure. You need to strike a balance. If you have a huge number of very simple procedures, they are actually easier to follow if they are grouped together logically, rather than listed and written separately. For example, small, simple tasks that are done across a shift such as loading raw materials and packaging materials, monitoring the line and performing quality checks would be better grouped as Operations Tasks rather than individual tasks.
Identify Detailed and Overview Procedures
Examples of machine-based procedures:
- Change a Reel of Film
- Strip Down and Clean Capper (one machine from a line
- Car Oil Change
- Operate Labeling Machine
Having identified all of the individual tasks, you may need to identify detailed procedures that cover how to operate individual complex pieces of equipment. If you have good manuals for equipment that include procedures for tasks such as starting up, shutting down, cleaning and maintenance, then you may not need to rewrite them. However, most manuals that I have seen do not contain actual procedures. Instead they describe the functions and controls, and they are not specific to your application. If this is the case, you may need to write your own detailed procedures.
Examples of “overview” procedures:
- Shut Down Biscuit Line
- Open Café
- Perform Car Service
- Perform Size Change on Packing Line
One of the common mistakes people make when identifying procedures is to have only machine or equipment-based procedures. Of course these are necessary so that people can learn how to operate equipment one piece at a time. However, usually operators are looking after a line of machines all working together. To draw the individual procedures together and integrate them into day-to-day operations, you will need “overview” procedures that are task-based. In these procedures you might describe what to do but refer to the more detailed procedure for how to do it. If you have a procedure for how to operate every piece of equipment but no procedures for how to operate them together as a line, then people do not know what order to start up, shut down, clean or change over the line, and for each of these tasks they would need to refer to multiple procedures. Your overview procedures incorporate operational tasks such as walking the line before startup, housekeeping, and collecting line performance data which would not be captured in procedures that are purely equipment-based.
When you write overview procedures, cover only what you need to know at the time. Don’t put how to start up, operate, shut down, clean and change over a machine all into the one procedure. You need to know these things at different times, so they don’t go together.
Examples of tasks required for all or a number of roles:
- How to put on PPE
- How to fill out a leave form or incident report
- How to operate a drill press
When you come to structure the procedures you have identified, group them under the headings you identified earlier. They will look like a hierarchy. The big headings will be the departments, followed by areas and roles. You will need to add a heading for tasks that are performed by all roles, or a number of roles in a particular department or area, because you don’t need separate versions for each department.
- Emergency Evacuation
- How to Use a Fire Extinguisher
- Respond to Fire in Ovens
Add another heading for emergency operations. These are tasks (or a way of responding to situations) that you want people to know how to do immediately, should the situation arise, though hopefully they may never need to do them. It is an important part of risk management.
By now you should have an organised list of procedures. Your next steps in planning are to set up document control and decide on style and format.