I’m in a giving mood today, so here for your use is a free procedure template. I’ve used it many times to document compliance with NERC reliability standards. Feel free to use it in your own work, to document internal corporate policies; just don’t put your name on it and sell it as your work.
While there is no one true way to format a procedure, the essential elements of a credible document include:
- Approval information (name and title of the person approving, and the date of approval).
- Effective date and version number.
- Procedure title and company name.
- Applicability (list of the positions, departments, and internal functions to which the procedure applies).
- Procedures (the step-by-step detailed instructions).
Other beneficial procedure document sections include:
- Purpose—a description of the goal, approach, and general scope of the problem being addressed.
- References—other material that implementing personnel will require in order to complete the procedure, as well as materials that generally provide context or guidance (such as relevant regulations).
- Definitions—terms with special meaning.
- Data retention—guidelines regarding the preservation of data and documentation.
- Version history—helpful information on how the procedure for a certain subject has changed over time.
One more recommendation… Write instructions using active voice and second-person perspective. When written in passive voice, procedures that are meant to read like instructions often read like descriptions of usual activity, and thus end up sounding like suggestions. Even if your staff understand that the procedures are mandatory, auditors may not take them that way. Of course, pay special attention to the use of words such as “may” and “should”. Instead use “must” and “shall”.