If Writing Operating Procedures describes the birth of a procedure (which it does), and the operating procedure’s existence is integral to the optimal performance of the task it describes (which it does), then it follows that the procedure receive the proper care and feeding to be a healthy, vibrant part of the organization’s Quality effort.
OK, so I’ve taken the Dr. Spock analogy too far, but post-development handling of the procedure is critical to its utility. If the procedure does not continue to support the process and represent the best knowledge we have about the process, its usefulness will rapidly diminish. Beyond the Writing of Operating Procedures is focused on making your procedures maintain their usefulness.
So, that begs the question: what is a “procedure life cycle?”
The answer is illustrated in the attachment linked below, but in reality, there is not really a procedure life cycle. There is, however, a process life cycle that the operating procedure must mirror for the organization to succeed. That may seem like splitting hairs, but it’s important to consider since organizations are much more in-tune to their processes– analyzing them, making them better, simplifying them–than they are to the procedures that describe those processes.
Each element of process development illustrated represents a change (or potential change), after the procedure is approved and put into circulation. Of course, approval and distribution of the procedure are critical elements that must also be carefully controlled.
But it is in the performance of the task that an improvement-focused organization will study to see what can be made better. This may be in the form of informal observations and reports, or in the form of formal improvement team activities. An incident or failure involving the process will necessitate a more detailed review to identify corrective actions.
Each action in the diagram involves interaction with the procedure and may affect procedure construction or content. It is important to realize that maintaining a procedure through its life cycle involves more than updating and revision control. Of course those are critical considerations, but more important than maintaining a procedure is using the procedure.
Beyond the Writing of Operating Procedures will look at the “whole life” of the procedure, not just those junctures where the procedure is revised and I have to make sure that Rev. B is out of circulation now that Rev. C is in circulation. In my next post, I will introduce the outline of Beyond.
As this book comes together, I am all ears to suggestions or ideas related to the content and development of the topics. And as I noted in the last post, I am looking for technical communicators to review my book when the review version is complete (it may be your only chance to snag a free(!) copy of my second book).