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Procedures – basic work structures

The “Procedure” is one of the basics of a Management System (MS). In simple terms, it is a written document or process diagram, that specifies the steps you need to complete a work process. Normally it would also explain how your staff should do each work step. It is a documented, structured, instruction set for a process, which will fulfil a customer’s requirements.

You cannot document every work process. An artisan at work has years of training and experience. Nobody would write a procedure for how a glass blower deploys his skill. How would you write a procedure to describe how a graphic artist creates a design? However, you can document the different parts of the overall process. Your “procedure” should describe how experience, skills and creativity fit into the work chain and document the key steps. That should include who, where, when, how, and in what order of the steps. The procedures should also show the education or skills levels needed to deliver those procedures.

The procedure should list the key actions needed to omplete a process. The level of detail depends on staff training and supporting systems.

Many procedures make light work

Every work-place has procedures, even if you do not have them written down. Running a business involves many different jobs. In essence, each of the individual activities we undertake in our work, involves a procedure.

In a management system the aim is to improve your processes. Each improvement should help your customer service. That may include benefits for you too. Improvements to your procedures can save money, time or reduce mistakes.

A quality system requires you to have procedures written down, so you can see what works. By knowing what works, or not, you can see how to improve your processes. This is the basic mechanism for continuously improving your business.

Not everything needs a procedure – only those things that directly affect the delivery of a quality product or service. However, many businesses find that as they take the quality management approach, the benefits start piling up. Eventually they end up with procedures for most work activities – the effects are positive throughout the business.

Review is the key

Procedures do not lead to continuous improvement without reviews. First, you need to make sure your procedures match your needs. Be careful to ensure that you do not write “idealised” procedures. Nobody will use them and that will create variable outcomes. Quality Managers and supervisors easily write procedures that they would like to see. Those would probably not be the same as the procedures actually in use. What you need to do is document the procedures your staff currently use. Then, use those as a basis for looking for improvements.

A sequence for improvement…

It is surprising what can be achieved by writing up your procedures. Management teams often get positive results from the first efforts at writing procedures. Surprisingly, they had no idea that the basic processes were so complicated, inadequate, wasteful or even poor quality. Just the act of writing them down brings all sorts of nasties out of the woodwork. A quality company undoubtedly needs to know about problematic things like failing procedures.

The following simple method can easily be put in place for the purpose of writing up procedures as part of an effective management process…

  • Write up the current procedures as a text document or a process diagram.
  • After a short while (say a month), review it to see if you are doing what the procedure says.
  • If the procedure describes your process accurately, try to improve it.
  • Check your procedure matches your actual process.
  • Revise the procedure or process where necessary.
  • Once the process and the procedure consistently match, you can look for ways to improve the procedure.
  • Review your procedure and your process regularly for non-conformance and possible improvements.

If the written procedures model your work processes, what next? Things might be working well – or not. Often, people working in the same activity, do different things to complete the same process. This latter problem leads to variable quality of product or services.

Whatever you find, you will need to review the process. Then, you can review the documents in the procedure. Reviews help managers and staff put on their thinking caps. The aim is to produce a better job, improve processes, develop your work process to describe your “Best Practice”. Next, you write an updated procedure. Finally, you train people to use it and try out the new way.

Keeping the continuous improvement ball rolling

To keep making continual improvements, you will need to check each procedure regularly. That means checking that the work process exactly follows the procedure as described in the documentation. You also need to check each procedure is doing its job properly, that it is meeting its requirements. For more information, see: Internal Audits plus Conformance and Non-conformance.

Procedures Get passed the problems

Your business can suffer with many problems. Poor quality product, bad operations, variable processes and excessive costs and other problems all crop up. These problems remain hidden without clear “Procedures”. It is the basic unit of good sense in your business. Once everyone has agreed your Best Practice procedure the training begins. After training, the staff know how to complete a process as specified in your procedure. Now you have set your standards. That is why “procedure” is so important in your quality management system.


We have many years of working with companies and organisations making a start with management standards. Many of our clients started with ISO 9001. They have found it improved both their business and internal organisation. In fact, we have a very clear principle at CHARTER 4. We aim to Improve your business, rather than just comply with the Standard. That means working to make your investment in the Standard of your choice pay you back for your investment – and continue to pay you back for the years to come.

Would you like to know how to invest in the future of your business through good organisation and business resiliance? You can contact CHARTER 4 using one of the buttons below.

Procedures are critical components of all your processeses. Good documentation will help them be clear.
Certification with Charter 4 – the Business Benefits
  • Improve, rather than just comply.
  • Full service and ongoing support to compliment your resources.
  • Build on your Processes & Systems (no standard templates).
  • Help defining your Best Practice.
  • Certification by independent UKAS accredited Assessors.
  • 100% Success & guaranteed support until Certification.
  • Help to get Government Grant (when available).
  • Flexible support to complement your resources.
CHARTER4 – Partners you with the experience and insight to help you grow using management Standards. We will help you improve your business, rather than just comply with the Standards.