In our last blog, we covered the importance of standard operating procedures (SOPs) in maintaining quality, protecting the public and employees, and meeting compliance and security regulation demands. SOPs are vital documents that lay out the who, what, when, and where for important procedures in your industry or organization. But what about the “how” in that equation? That’s where work instructions come in.
SOPs vs. Work InstructionsWhereas SOPs are top-level documents that tell employees which actions to take under a variety of circumstances, work instructions describe those actions in detail. These instructions aren’t necessarily long or verbose. They should be as clear and concise as possible.
Best PracticesWork instructions should be narrowed to an individual task within an SOP. Make sure that any terminology used is clearly defined or well-known by anyone who might use the instructions. As in all good writing, consider the audience, including pre-existing knowledge and primary concerns in the situation.
Writing work instructions can be as simple as bulleted lists or as complex as illustrated instruction flows. The overriding requirement is clear instructions for completing a given task. It's a good idea to include checklists in your instructions so employees can confirm that the directions or steps have been carried out correctly.
Even if you have fantastic SOPs, processes can break down if specific work instructions are missing or inadequate. After all, an employee might know that s/he needs to check a certain assembly, but if s/he doesn’t know which steps to take to perform that action, the employee might not know what to check for or how to complete the check.