A Year of Writing Work Instructions—What I Have Learned

A New Series from Mr. Procedure

I have focused most of my writing career on the operating procedure level of the Documentation Hierarchy. Usually, the development of work instructions fell to others (such as process engineers) while I wrote the procedures that facilitated training and development—preparing the operator to use the work instructions.

But in the last year, I found myself out of a job of 8 1/2 years and had to find a new gig. For the first time in my life, I found myself in a contract position. My task was to write work instructions for a company that manufactures testing equipment. While I avoided being tagged with the nickname “Mr. Work Instructions,” I learned a lot about the development of work instructions.

In Writing Operating Procedures, my initial foray into book development, I discussed the principal difference between the Operating Procedure and a Work Instruction document. Even though in some cases the distinction between the two can be blurred, the documents serve separate purposes. The Work Instruction can be defined as the document the operator must have in their possession while performing the activity.   

[Note: you can receive a free .pdf copy of Writing Operating Procedures simply by requesting it at mrprocedure@gmail.com. And I promise not to follow up with emails trying to sell you something.]

In the installments of the series to follow, I will describe different types of work instructions, and how they are supported by operating procedures and/or by development of relevant skills. In time I will expand on my thoughts to develop a companion book to Writing Operating Procedures, to be called Writing Work Instructions. But in the interim I still have my second discussion of operating procedures (which I am only six years late in producing), tentatively titled Beyond the Writing of Operating Procedures, to complete. (The anticipated subjects of this book are shared in a previous post.)

In the meantime, this series will share some thoughts and ideas that ideally will permit persons developing work instructions to plan, develop and optimize work instructions to achieve their desired outcomes. I hope you join us in this series and I welcome any comments or questions related to work instruction development (or any other aspect of instructional communication).

About Tim James "Mr. Procedure"

A communicator; all-purpose capability in writing, designing and presenting training for all facets of organizational function. While my focus has been manufacturing, my training/development experience includes supervisory and lead person development, audit processes, continuous improvement and Lean, and Quality Management System implementation.
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