Writing policies and procedures is a challenge, even for the experienced technical writer. In order for any organization to function properly, policies and procedures must be clearly written. They need to be accurate, brief, and easy to comprehend. When written correctly, policies and procedures can save time, eliminate frustration, and increase efficiency. This two-day workshop will incorporate the client's existing documents for hands-on review through large group, small group, and individual exercises.
Answers provided by our Writing Effective Policies and Procedures trainer, Catherine S. Hibbard
Q. What's the difference between a policy and a procedure?
A. One way to differentiate between the two is that policies deal with the "what" and the "why" and procedures deal with the "how."
Q. That makes sense. How else are they different?
A. Policies are guidelines that regulate organizational activities. They can also be described as a type of position statement, explaining the organization's stand on a subject and why there is a rule about it.
Q. Why is it so difficult to write policies?
A. Sometimes writing policy statements is a challenge because they can be broad in nature, general in wording, and ambiguous.
Q. Can you give an example of a policy statement that is too general?
A. Absolutely. Company ABC has this policy statement on their Web site: We believe in providing our customers with the best customer service in our entire industry.
Q. How could that statement be improved?
A. Most readers would respond by thinking, "Okay. How do you do that?" The statement lacks specificity. If I were a customer, I would like to know how the outstanding service will be delivered.
Q. Is this where procedures comes into play?
A. Yes. Procedures are the normal method of handling things. They are protocols for implementation—the "how to." Procedures are action based and outline the steps you expect people to take and the sequence to follow. Frequently, they point out the consequences of failure to comply (e.g., damage, loss, injury, discipline).
Q. What should writers keep in mind when writing procedures?
A. Clearly written procedures are specific.
Q: Can you suggest some Internet resources related to writing policies and procedures
A: Yes. Click on the links below to find additional valuable information on technical writing to help in writing policies and procedures.
Catherine S. Hibbard is a nationally recognized expert in business and technical writing. She designs and delivers customized training seminars in technical and business writing, writing effective policies and procedures, and proofreading/editing.
Ms. Hibbard's client base, which is diverse and impressive, draws from both corporations and government agencies such as Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), several NASA centers, and numerous military branches. Her corporate clients include Nestlé Purina, Lowe’s, Verizon, and Campbell Soup. She has been awarded contracts for large training initiatives with the Office of Professional Management (OPM), Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), New York State Insurance Department, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).