To make a procedure achieve its intended training outcome, the procedure must first be relevant. That sounds simple enough, but in many environments, the development of procedures came about for any number of reasons that had nothing to do with effective performance.
As my former company’s trainer of root cause analysis techniques (and as a participant on way too many investigations), I can with authority state that one of the most common reasons procedures come into existence is to satisfy a corrective action request after an incident.
Those of you in safety and/or quality have most likely been involved in (or–shudder!–responsible for) identifying “develop a procedure” as a corrective action after something went wrong. In the case of quality issues, especially when a customer is involved, “develop a procedure” is a very common requested corrective action. (And–not surprisingly–“train employees” is the companion corrective action.)
If pressed, most people will realize that “write a procedure” and “train employees” are rarely effective corrective actions. But they are both very easy for everyone to track and provide “objective evidence” that the corrective actions have been completed.
The problem with nearly all procedures born out of corrective actions? They are very narrowly focused: usually, they only deal with the specific action that we want our workers to do differently the next time, to prevent a recurrence of the incident or problem.
I have walked into more than one procedure-development situation where a quick read of the procedure titles suggested that they existed only as stop-gap corrective actions taken after “it was done wrong.”
So, what should drive the topics covered by procedures? How do we make them relevant? That question will be the focus of Part 3 of this series.