Administrative professionals come at procedures from many different knowledge levels. Some know procedures in and out and have been using them successfully for years; others are starting from square one.
Whichever camp you’re in, there’s no harm in going back to basics. Whether you use this as a refresher or as an initial starting point, this article will cover the basic fundamentals of procedures.
What Are Procedures and Why Are They Important?
Procedures are documented, step-by-step instructions for performing tasks or processes. Some may only have two or three steps; others may have two or three pages.
A good procedure should be easy for anyone to follow, even if they’ve never completed the task in question before.
Procedures are important because they help provide consistency. When you do the same thing the same way every time, you can ensure that nothing is overlooked or forgotten, no matter who is performing the task.
They also allow you and your team to be more efficient. When documented procedures exist and are available to everyone, it’s easier to delegate when necessary without having to spend time explaining what needs to be done and how to do it. Everything is right there in your procedures manual!
Ultimately, well-defined procedures save you and your team members time, provide clarity, and ensure consistency, compliance, and customer service across the board.
The following are a handful of useful procedures development terms and definitions:
- SOP (Standard Operating Procedures): A universal set of procedures everyone uses to complete tasks.
- Process – A series of interrelated steps or activities designed to achieve a specific outcome.
- Example: In a manufacturing company, the process of assembling a product involves multiple steps, from gathering raw materials to quality control checks before the final product is ready for shipment.
- Process Mapping – The visual representation of a process, often using flowcharts or diagrams, to illustrate its steps and relationships.
- Example: A flowchart that outlines the steps involved in the order fulfillment process, showing how orders are received, processed, and shipped.
- Procedure – A documented, step-by-step guide that tells someone how to complete a certain task or process.
- Example: An employee handbook that includes a procedure for submitting expense reports, outlining the steps to fill out the form, attach receipts, and submit it to the finance department.
- Policy – A rule or guideline set by your company that all employees are expected to follow.
- Example: An organization’s email usage policy that outlines rules for sending and receiving emails, including data protection and confidentiality guidelines.
- System – A set of related procedures that work together to get something done.
- Example: The inventory management system in a retail business consists of various procedures, including ordering, receiving, stocking, and tracking products.
- Workflow – The sequence of ordered steps and tasks involved in completing a specific process or project.
- Example: In a marketing campaign, the workflow includes tasks like market research, content creation, design, review, and publication.
- Form – A structured document with fields for collecting specific information.
- Example: An employee performance evaluation form that managers use to assess an employee’s performance based on predefined criteria.
- Checklist – A list of items or tasks to be completed, typically used as a quick reference to ensure nothing is missed.
- Example: A webinar prep checklist for presenters, listing critical tasks and system checks before speaking.
- Template – A pre-designed document or format that can be customized for various purposes.
- Example: A presentation template in Microsoft PowerPoint with pre-set slide layouts, fonts, and colors, which can be used for creating consistent presentations.
- Screenshot – A captured image of your computer screen which, when added to a procedure, can give people a helpful visual.
- Example: In a troubleshooting guide, a screenshot can show users the error message they may encounter on their computer screen, assisting in problem-solving.
Getting Started With Procedures Development
As you begin to develop your procedures, it’s important for them to be clear, consistent, and accurate. Here are a few tips to help you get started:
- Use clear and simple language. Avoid using technical jargon if possible.
- Keep the formatting, terminology, and basic structure of each procedure consistent. (Using a template can be a huge help!)
- Keep your procedures up to date. Review them regularly and make necessary changes and updates.
- Ensure that everyone on your team knows how to access your procedures.
Procedures help you remember all the important details – no matter how chaotic things may get. They also make it easy for you to delegate tasks, have others fill in for you when you’re out of the office, and save time and effort. They can be a tremendous source of relief for you and the entire team. You won’t regret creating yours!
Need help powering up your procedures project? These resources can help!
- Free Webinar: Introduction to Systems and Procedures Development
- Book: Become a Procedures Pro®
- Training on Demand: Getting Started With Procedures Development
- Gain access to all our training – including systems and procedures development – for one low monthly or quarterly subscription with the AdminPro Training® VIP Pass.
Explore all of our systems and procedures development options!
© 2024 Julie Perrine International, LLC
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Julie Perrine is the founder and CEO of All Things Admin, providing training, mentoring and resources for administrative professionals worldwide. Julie applies her administrative expertise and passion for lifelong learning to serving as an enthusiastic mentor, speaker and author who educates admins around the world on how to be more effective every day. Learn more about Julie’s books — The Innovative Admin: Unleash the Power of Innovation in Your Administrative Career and The Organized Admin: Leverage Your Unique Organizing Style to Create Systems, Reduce Overwhelm, and Increase Productivity, Become a Procedures Pro: The Admin’s Guide to Developing Effective Office Systems and Procedures, and Prove Your Skills! With a Powerful Professional Portfolio.