The basic characteristics of an “effective” procedure writer have been discussed in the previous eight posts. In the final two posts, I am stepping out a little further (on the limb, as it may be). In the wrap-up to this discussion, I want to focus a little on what makes an excellent procedure writer.
Excellence is measured in terms of the degree the procedures enable excellent performance within the organization. When product is created in a timely manner, with no defects, no scrap and no employee injuries, excellence can be measured in real bottom line results (what is termed “return on investment,” or ROI).
Key to achieving excellence is the ability to put yourself in the shoes of the end-user of the document. What do they need to excel in their work? Is there a different, better way to approach the subject matter? Should I really be satisfied that words on paper are really enough to achieve excellence? Or is there more I can do to ensure that the knowledge is effectively transferred?
In my experience as a procedure writer, I have to date come up with exactly one reason for operating procedures to exist (and no, it has nothing to do with placating auditors). The one reason for operating procedures to exist is to educate the process performer. Let me put it another way: there are two customers for the operating procedure: the person who will learn the process, and the person who will teach the process. The effective procedure writer will understand that they are writing just as much to satisfy the trainer (maybe more so), than to satisfy the trainee.
If the purpose of an operating procedure is to facilitate learning (if you know of another reason for procedures to exist, please write me), then the excellent procedure writer comes to each assignment with the heart of trainer or educator. Does that mean you should be expected to become a stand-up trainer? No, not necessarily, though if you can add that skill, you will be more valuable to your organization. But if you can see the real desired outcome of an operating procedure, and work toward achieving those outcomes, you will provide much greater value to your organization than a “mere technical writer.”