This article will help you describe the procedures you need to carry out the processes’ activities. A quality management system is made of processes, with procedures to describe how the activities are performed. When is it relevant to write a procedure ? What is a procedure ? How to write a procedure so the users understand it ?
What is a procedure
A procedure details the way the actions should be performed to carry out an activity. This term is often used as “process” in corporate language but it is incorrect.
Example : A cooking recipe, an internal audit, how to operate with a soldering iron, …
At the end, you will have several procedures describing the activities of a process that transforms an input into an output.
For example, in the purchasing process you could find the procedures :
- External service providers selection
- External service providers review
- Litigation management
In the pack, there are 4 processes, 7 sub-processes and 28 procedures described to carry out the activities required by the ISO 9001 standard.
How to write a procedure
Depending on the type of procedure, you might need to specify different things, like :
- The responsibilities, with a RACI matrix
- The details of the actions
- A supporting flow chart to help people understand the procedure
- The required resources (equipment, human, …)
The first thing you should do is determine a template for your procedures and stick to it. It will provide consistancy over the described procedures.
Create a unique reference
At the beginning of the document, create a unique reference for the procedure. You should add as well a confidentiality level and a version. The version of the document will change everytime you change anything in the procedure.
Add a validation cycle
You should identify who wrote the procedure, who checked it and who validated it. Document as well the process pilot who is in charge of how the activities are being carried out.
List all the documents related to the procedure
Make a list of all the documents and records related to this procedure and write the list in the procedure.
Create a supporting diagram or flow chart
Create one supporting flow chart per procedure. This flow chart shows the tasks one by one and how they are related to one another. It has to be as simple as possible so the users understand it easily.
Here is an example of flow chart symbols you can use in your procedure :
Describe all the tasks of the flow chart
Create a table that lists all the tasks and describes the activities.
Create a RACI matrix for those tasks
A RACI matrix aims to define and document procedure roles and responsibilities. It describes the participation by various roles in completing a task. You need to write one for every procedure.
Read more about RACI matrix in this article.
Add anything you might find relevant
You can add anything you might find relevant for the procedure, for example :
- The required resources (equipment, human, …)
- The regulatory or legal requirements
- A more precise description of a very specific activity
Is it relevant to write a procedure ?
Writing many procedures to be exhaustive do not make your quality management system stronger if the procedures are neither needed nor understood. Before writing a procedure, you should ask yourself if it is relevant and will provide important information to the users or not.
You need a procedure when an activity :
- Is barely done (example: management review).
- Is complex (example: how to set-up a new machine).
- Requires that everyone strictly follows rules (example: payroll).
- Demands consistency (example: handling reclaims).
- Involves documentation (example: performing an internal audit).
- Involves significant change (example: installing a new software).
- Has serious consequences if done wrong (example: safety guidelines).
In a company, there are many “unwritten rules” and informal procedures. Many things are done without written documents. But sometimes these unwritten rules need to be set in a formal procedure, especially when :
- Similar questions are asked repeatedly.
- People are confused about the activities.
- People interpret the unformal procedure in a different way.
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