Easily understood, complete and accessible procedures – is it possible?
By Lisa Seppala, True North Implementation
I accomplished something of which I’m incredibly proud. I replaced the battery in my 400cc motor scooter! Unlike many, I’m not mechanically gifted. Regular servicing at the dealership is my preference.
That said, until the engine came to life, I, a newcomer to the world of motor scooters, experienced mounting frustration trying to install the new battery.
Why? I couldn’t easily find the answers to my questions. I consulted at least ten sources for information. None provided the complete information I needed. Each time I attempted the install, a new question or issue would surface. Finally, after several hours spread out over a weekend and with all my questions answered, the last attempt went smoothly. In the end, it was easy.
My sense through all of this was that the instructions provided by each source did not have me (the newbie) in mind. These were mechanics communicating with mechanics or with the knowledgeable consumer. The newbie needs simple language with clear diagrams depicting the step-by-step process from start to finish.
You might ask, should I even be replacing batteries? In this case, yes. Unless you ride daily or keep your battery connected to a charger, you will have to replace your battery often. Without a charged battery, there are no quick trips to the mechanic! Unless they have ready access to a mechanic from their home, even newbies need to develop the skill to do this safely.
Based on my experience, I will provide the motor scooter manufacturer with feedback regarding the battery replacement instructions; however, the feedback could apply to anyone writing procedures, including myself.
When writing instructions or procedures, some questions to ask yourself are:
- Who is my audience, and am I writing from their perspective?
- Who should be completing this task? What is the minimum training or skill level required?
- What materials, equipment, tools, etc., does my audience need to complete this task from start to finish? What are the steps necessary to complete the work?
- When does my audience need to perform this task? (e.g., frequency? season?)
- Where should this task be performed? Under which conditions? (e.g., ventilation, ambient temperature, humidity)
- Why is this task important? What happens if this task is neglected?
It’s also helpful to test the procedure with the intended audience to get their input and buy-in. Does it make sense to them? Will they be able to use/follow it? Will they be able to find it and use it efficiently? Will they accept the procedure when it’s rolled out? Involving the end-users of your work upfront will help ensure the procedures are accessible and complete. As a bonus, in the workplace, including workers upfront goes a long way to making them feel valued and included.