SOPs and the Technical Writer

Intercom-April 2003; By Mark Edelman; Summary by Maria Christophel (2006) This article provides a thorough method for writing Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). It begins with a clear definition of what SOPs are and what they should not be and takes the reader through the structure, the research, authorship, management, professional matters, and concludes stating that writing SOPs is one way for companies to excel. It explains in detail the elements that should be included in the creation of SOPs such as front matter, purpose, scope, definitions, roles and responsibilities, etc. Equally detailed is the list of recommendations for dealing with authorship issues, which writers of SOPs may have to face; the list includes minimizing cross references, using consistent language, testing procedures, etc. The article stresses the importance of managing the sets of SOPs written to achieve quality, and warns the writers to beware of organizational changes as the worst enemy of documented SOPs.

Building an Electronic Documentation Repository

Intercom-April 2005; By Barbara Block; Summary by Maria Christophel (2006) This article presents a model for creating a documentation database that provides easy access to its users and a self marketing tool for the technical writer. It describes the three reasons for building a repository: building a showcase for the work produced, developing creative talent, and providing easy access of procedures for its users. The article provides insight as to the major milestones for building the repository: creating the database, designing the front end, and linking the database to the front end.

Procedures – The Sacred Cow Blocking the Road

Proceedings-1998; By Michael Hughes and Loren Burke; Summary by Maria Christophel (2006) This article introduces characteristics of procedures that produce a mismatch when compared to characteristics of users’ needs and expectations. It explains the principles of user interaction with written documentation and elaborates in detail on the emerging non-relevance of step-by-step- procedures as written today.

Creating “Living” Policies and Procedures

Intercom-November 2005; By Geoffrey J. S. Hart; Summary by Maria Christophel (2006) This article states that policies and procedures goals found in dusty old binders were created to enshrine best practices or to evaluate employees. The author explains that these policies and procedures would not be valuable unless they are effective in supporting the employees to achieve the goals of the organization. The author supports best practices, consistency, training, and compliance as goals for writing policies and procedures; but in addition, the author explains the reasons why policies and procedures must react immediately to business changes, thus arising the need to create living policies and procedures.

A Cautionary Tale

Intercom-November 2005; By Sheila C. Jones; Summary by Maria Christophel (2006) This article narrates the story of a tragic accident that could have been prevented if policies and procedures could have been properly communicated to the workers. It also asks P&P writers to take responsibility for adding value to the document by going beyond the job that is requested.

Information Gathering for Policies and Procedures

Proceedings-1996; By Christine Dodwell; Summary by Maria Christophel (2006) This article provides a view of the various methods for collecting, using, and maintaining policies and procedures information. It defines internal sources, external sources, and publications as places to begin research. It explains the steps for collecting the information as interviewing, researching, outlining, detailing, and following up. It presents the need for maintaining files of the research and documentation process.

Writing Clear Policies and Procedures with Playscript

Proceedings-1999-J. Richard Flemming CMC; Summary by Maria Christophel (2006) This article presents Playscript as a documentation technique, and addresses the most important benefits of using this technique for writing policies and procedures. It defines “Performance Orientation,” and details a method for using action writing. It establishes the need for structured writing as a complementing format to the Playscript technique to achieve clarity; and provides examples for using structured writing.

Transforming Tribal Knowledge into Written Instructions

Intercom-April 2006; By Bradford R. Connaster; Summary by Maria Christophel (2006) This article presents Sequence as software, which a technical writer may use to convert Tribal Knowledge into written procedures in a few days; it defines the industry term Tribal Knowledge and explains the reasons why businesses should convert this knowledge into written documentation. The article lists and explains the mechanical and writing skills required to convert Tribal Knowledge into written procedures; it also advices on a set of requirements to set up a project using software and photography equipment to document procedures. The author details the equipment set up and provides a lot of insight into the features of Sequence including some of its pitfalls.

The Team Approach to Writing Policies and Procedures

Proceedings-1996; By Diane L. Whitmer; Summary by Maria Christophel (2006) This article provides a brief insight of the benefits inherent in using the team approach for writing policies and procedures. The article provides a method for structuring the documentation teams, for planning the writing, and for developing the documentation. The article describes team consensus, sense of ownership, stronger writing skills, and sense of hard-earned accomplishment as benefits of using the team approach.

Techniques for Successful SME Interviews

Intercom-March 2000; By Jennifer L. Lambe; Summary by Maria Christophel (2006) This article acknowledges the various techniques for gathering information, but it provides techniques for conducting successful interview with subject matter experts (SMEs). The article notes that SMEs may have various degrees of communication skills and therefore, it is the writer’s (interviewer’s) job to get prepared to optimize the results of the interview. It provides steps that should be taken prior, during, and after the interview. The steps prior to the interview include defining objectives, preparing for the meeting, and being punctual. The steps for during the interview include using active listening skills, asking open-ended questions, politely controlling the interview, repeating information to ensure understanding, identifying gaps, being accurate, organizing the information, and making no promises. The steps for closing the interview include thanking the SMEs, asking permission to follow up, reviewing notes immediately after the interview.