Cherryleaf’s policies and procedures writing – Next course 24th November 2015

Cherryleaf’s first public policies and procedures writing course will be held on the 24th November 2015, at our training centre in central London (SW7).

Discover how to create clear and effective policies and procedures. Cherryleaf’s policies and procedures course teaches your staff how to write clear and effective policies and procedures, in a straightforward and efficient way. This course is for anyone involved in writing or editing policies and procedures.

Places are limited to a maximum of 10 delegates.


Creating palaces of almost forgotten things

Museum of almost forgotten things brochure

This weekend, we went to the Fabularium on London’s South Bank, where the programme highlighted The Museum of Almost Forgotten Things. It struck me that this concept could also be applied to technical communication. The impetus to write things down, to document policies and procedures and to write user documentation for software written in a Sprint, is often due to organisations worrying that important information might be soon forgotten. Technical Authors often capture and record almost forgotten things. They might, however, object to the word “museum”, because they are working with how things are today much more than how things were in the past. So perhaps “palace” could be an alternative word to use.

Ben Haggerty, the storyteller whom we saw perform, started by trying to discover who we, the audience, were. He quoted a west African saying that there are four types of people in the world:

Those that know and know that they know. These are called teachers, and should be respected.

Those that know, but don’t know that they know. These people are asleep.

Those that don’t know, and know they don’t know. These people are students.

Those that don’t know, but don’t know they don’t know. And there are 630 of them sitting in the House of Commons on the other side of the Thames.

It’s interesting to see how close this old African saying is to competency models used in training today: unconscious incompetence, conscious incompetence, conscious competence and unconscious competence.

Why business writing is so difficult

“Everyone is taught to write at school, so surely everyone can write in business?”

Although the quotation above would seem to make sense, the reality is that many people find it hard to write in a business context. They struggle to write clearly, and it can take them ages to produce a piece of content.

It’s not their fault. What we’re taught at school is how to write narratives, that is stories or articles. We’re also taught to argue a case – to use rhetoric to build to a conclusion. We’re taught writing to persuade and writing to entertain.

In the world of business, we often need different forms of writing. We’re often writing to inform or writing to instruct.

In these situations, people want to know what they should and shouldn’t be doing, and get on with their jobs. They want the important information at the beginning, rather than the end. They want to scan and hunt for the information relevant to them, rather than always having to read everything from beginning to end.

Many people haven’t been taught how to write to inform or to instruct, and that’s why many people find business writing so difficult.

The sad case of GDS and the tax manuals

The UK’s Government Digital Service has been doing great work in putting users’ needs before the needs of government, so it was a shock to see the revised tax manuals the GDS and HMRC published recently.

In the GDS blog post, First HMRC manual on GOV.UK – give us your feedback, Till Worth explained:

“HMRC has built a new publishing system which makes it easier for its tax experts to update and maintain the content of the manuals. Tax agents, accountants and specialists need to be able to see the tax manuals exactly how HMRC publishes them internally, so the GDS team knew we couldn’t touch the content. We did create a new design for the manuals to make them more user-friendly and bring them in line with GDS design principles.”

From what I can see, there’s been two changes:

  1. New look and feel
  2. Changes to the navigation and search

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Why you probably shouldn’t use Word to create your policy documents

Flickr image "Holmes McDougall Employee Handbook" by Edinburgh City of PrintImagine you are an IT manager for an organisation that has been implementing new IT systems. You have now reached the point where you need to create and document the new IT policies and procedures. The organisation already has some general policies for IT in its staff handbook, but you need to provide more detailed information on how to use the organisation’s IT efficiently and securely.

For example, the staff handbook tells staff that customer information must be treated confidentially and only approved communication channels must used. The IT policy and procedures document will provide more detail  – that web email services (such as Yahoo Mail) must not be used to send customer information, because they often store a copy of the email even if you have deleted your sent message.

The best approach would be to have some sections in both the staff handbook and the IT policy document. In other words, the same content in different documents. Otherwise, staff would need to have two manuals open each time they wanted to check they were doing things correctly.

If you use Word, you’re likely to do this by coping the text from one Word document and pasting it into the other Word document. The problem with this approach is that when you make a change to the text, you need to remember to paste any amended sections into the other document. This make it very difficult to create customised variations of documents, such as cut down versions for managers or new staff, branch-specific versions etc. It becomes unmanageable.

One of the benefits of using some of the alternatives to Word is you can embed a piece of information into multiple documents. In a similar way to how you can use the same image in lots of different web pages, you can use the same chunk of text in lots of different documents. The advantage of this approach is that in the future you’ll only need to change the source, embedded chunk of text when it’s time to make a revision. That piece of text gets updated automatically (or semi-automatically) in all the documents that use it.

Policies and procedures writing courses – beginner and advanced

You’ll find we’ve updated the Policies and procedures writing courses – beginner and advanced page on our website. This course will train your staff in how to create clear and effective policies and procedures information.

This course was originally developed to train NHS staff in how to write and organise non-clinical policy, process and procedures documents in a clear and simple way, and it can be customised so it suits your requirements.

We’re can also offer this course in an alternative  “live and online” format over the Web. The course is delivered live, not recorded, with delegates completing exercises and able to ask questions during the course.

See Policies and procedures writing courses – beginner and advanced

Case study: Creating an easy to use Listener Guide for the Samaritans and the Prison Service

Through its Listener Scheme in prisons, Samaritans  provides  emotional support to prisoners who are struggling to cope, are self harming or are feeling suicidal.

Guidance for Samaritans volunteers that run and support Listener schemes was contained in a hard copy manual (the Guide to Prisons) which was cumbersome to update, difficult to navigate and not in a format that made it easy to share with prison staff. As a result, over the years, volunteers referred to it  less and less frequently meaning that consistency in delivery of the Listener scheme across the prison estate was being compromised.

Cherryleaf were tasked with converting the manual to a fully searchable, easy to use, online resource that would link to other relevant information on the Samaritans intranet and could also be made available on the Prison Service intranet. The new online Guide to the Listener scheme means that both Samaritans volunteers and prison staff have access to the same, up to date, comprehensive set of guidelines and information.

Maria Foster, Samaritans’ Prison Support Officer said:

“For Samaritans volunteers, having the information available on the intranet rather than in a manual in their branches, means they can find out what they need to know at any time; the search facility and page style ensures that information can be located and read quickly and easily.

For prison staff, this is the first time they will be able to see all of the Samaritans guidelines for running the Listener scheme; this will help to further develop their understanding of the scheme and will support them in facilitating the operation of the scheme in their prison.

Samaritans is delighted with the result of the project;

Cherryleaf understood the brief and very quickly got to grips with the subject matter, turning a cumbersome manual into a streamlined user friendly resource.”


The Samaritans provides confidential emotional support for people who are experiencing feelings of distress, despair or suicidal thoughts. You can talk to them, any time, on 08457 909090 (UK), 1850 60 90 90 (Republic of Ireland) or .

How can growing businesses get past the 5 and 10 employee barriers?

According to Dr Alan Rae, the number of companies in the UK that go from employing fewer than 10 to more than 10 in a year is only about 1600.

The reason, he explains, is that each new person hired adds another layer of relationships. By the time you’re up to about 12 or 13 staff, people issues gobble up all the owners’ time. The result is senior management don’t have the time to think about strategy.

A growing business that wants to grow will need to resolve this issue early on, probably when it hits the 4-6 employee mark. This is the really point when you need to start formalising and documenting your systems, processes and procedures.

You don’t want to lose the agility that’s made the business successful, so how can you keep agile and formalise the business?

One approach is to document your processes and procedures in a way that’s as agile and nimble as your business:

  • Use  professional business writers (such as Cherryleaf) who can capture critical (but missing) information and improve existing content. You can use them to  take your “brain dumps”, talk to others, look at what documents exist, and turn that into information that communicates your message clearly and simply.
  • Use software that makes it straightforward to both get to the information that staff need and keep it up to date. There’s software you can use that costs as little as $10/year.
  • Embed the information into the systems that staff use, so it’s always to hand.

With measures like these in place, you’re more likely to have a scalable business with fewer growing pains.

See also