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If Your Procedures Sound Like Shakespeare, You Might Want to Reconsider


If, your answer be “Yes” then goeth to step 17a, but if no
goeth to the next step wherefore you can prepare to move to step 17b.
If “maybe” then henceforth see HR Procedure 127.5 line 7 ….

While this might be slightly exaggerated, it is not all that far off from the kind of content I see on a regular basis: Documents that are hard to follow, hard to read, and pages and pages long. I am not sure if they are more frustrating to write or more frustrating to read, but I am sure that they are not setting you up for success.
The purpose of any type of procedures is to tell someone how to do something. A good procedure is clear, concise, and easy to follow. Not Shakespeare! 

If your SOPs sound like Shakespeare wrote them, try again!
Here are some quick tips:
  1. Break complex tasks into small parts. It is easier to follow a short sequence then move to the next one than it is to follow a 95 step sequence that runs to 40 pages or more.
  2. Use small, accessible words. Save the fancy business vocabularies for another time.
  3. Get to the point. The goal is to set someone up to replicate the task successfully. Tell them what they need to know.
  4. Be specific. Share the details that make your content actionable.
  5. Test your procedures. Can someone follow them?
For more posts on creating helpful procedures see SOP Writing Tips