Our approach to writing procedures documentation

Yesterday, I went on walk to celebrate the life of Richard White, and I was asked by someone on the walk how we tackle procedures writing projects. They asked two great questions: Do you use templates, and which tools do you use?

I thought it might be useful to describe our approach.

Do you use templates?

We don’t use templates in the sense of writing the content into a strict form. That can result in a rigid view of the organisation. In the same way that websites have different navigation routes for different types of users, so can procedures manuals.

So we start by listening. We want to identify the different audiences and build a domain model for the content. A CEO will need a top down view of the organisation. A manager will need to know which activities they are responsible for. A staff member will need to know how to do something correctly.

Below is a slide from Mike Atherton showing the idea applied to a conference website:

 domain model

We also need to establish the relationships between policies. In many cases, someone completing a task will also need to consider health and safety, equality and IT security policies. They don’t want to have four manuals open at the same time, so we also need to identify content that should be embedded inside other topics.

example of an embedded policy

Templates may come into play after that.

Which tools do you use?

Our choice of software depends on the complexity of the content, and how the client wants the content to be kept up to date In the future. If we continue to maintain the content for the client, we can use more complex tools than if the content is maintained in-house. In the latter situation, we would use a simpler tool. The tool will enable you to create modular, topic based content that can be organised into many different ways.

If you have any other questions, do let us know.

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