business center
business management topics
business news
management systems
business products
management services
management and business services
customer service
management and business services

Business Topics
Management Systems
About Us
Contact Us

Business Topics

Documentation and Work Instructions

Developing effective work instructions
ISO 9000
Instructions that work
Organizing documents

Sample tax form
Form for tracking payroll
Process steps instructions
Trial documentation
Document alerts
Books on process documentation
More books on documentation

Work Instructions That Work

How do you know if your Work Instructions are working?

The best way to tell that your instructions are working is when you do not have errors, complaints or returned product. You know that they are working when your employees are thrilled to work hard and your customers keep coming back and are happy with your product and services.

When an employee comes to work, knows what to do, is confident in his or her success, knows his or her contribution to the big picture, and sees and shares the management's vision and company's success, they want to work hard. When employees work in this type of environment they want to succeed. Face it, the longest days of work are the ones where you do not know what you are doing and trying to fill in the time. It's a drag!

Think about traveling from location A to location B. If you traveled a 100 times and each time took a different pathway, would you remember years later how to get from point A to point B? Probably not. If you traveled the same way each day, you'd know every intersection and even which lane to drive in. You would know which light turns red faster and which one gives you more time. You would know not to get behind a bus that stops at every corner.

Look at some employees that are always busy. Everyone depends on them and the place falls apart when they are gone. Those employees have the Work Instructions in their veins. Most of them have been doing their job for years. They are confident and make fewer errors. When you try and capture their "life learned instructions" they may not give you everything that they are doing. They have the learning curve built in and may not be aware why they are doing the things they do. They have learned from the past mistakes and past successes.

It is important to capture their knowledge and experience and transfer it to other employees. Your customer wants their product to arrive the same way regardless of who is working that day. Work Instructions are just a tool that can help you capture this knowledge and experience and pass it on.

Work Instructions that Work: Are Easy to Read

A Work Instruction that follows KISS (Keep It Simple S....) principle will make it easy to follow and not waste employees time. The balance of information, too much or too little information, can be tested by observing how employees implement the Work Instruction.

Too Simple Too Complex Right?
The formula contains 3 ingredients: A,B,C. The formula is made up of three ingredients. The ingredients are called A, B, and C. Before you start make sure that you have three measuring bins. Each bin is dedicated to each product, So product A is measured out using bin A. Product B is measured out using B bin. Product C is measured out using the C bin. All bins must be clean to make sure that previous lot raw materials are not going to be present. Look inside to make sure that they are clean. The formula contains 3 ingredients: A,B,C.

Use a clean bin that is dedicated to each ingredient to measure out each weight.

Verify that the scale is calibrated.

Measure out the ingredients as follows: Measure out each ingredient as follows in the table below: Measure out the ingredients as follows:
A=200 lbs. A=200 lbs. A=200 lbs.
B=100 lbs. B=100 lbs. B=100 lbs.
C=300 lbs. C=300 lbs. C=300 lbs.
Mix A, B, C and transfer to shipping container. First look into the mixing tank. Is it clean? If not clean the tank and make sure that it is clean and dry. You can now get bin A and add ingredient A to the mixing tank. After you add ingredient A you can get bin B and add ingredient B to the Mixing tank. Set the timer on for 10 minutes and press the Mixer ON button. When the buzzer goes off get the C bin that contains the C ingredient. Add the C ingredient to the mixing tank. Set the timer to 20 minutes and press the ON button on the mixer. When the buzzer goes off take a sample of the mixture and test it. Is it within the specifications? If yes transfer the contents to the shipping container. If it's not within the specifications, go get the Adjustment Work Instructions. Add A to a clean mixing tank. Add B and mix for 10 minutes. Add C and mix for 20 minutes. Test product. If product meets specifications transfer to shipping container, if it doesn't adjust per Adjustments Work Instructions.

Work Instructions that Work: Are Consistent

Work Instructions that follow a consistent format are easier to follow. If an employee needs to look up a single step or a part of instruction, he or she will be able to look it up and act on it a lot faster. When thoughts are organized in a sequential manner we remember them easier. A great example is the Constitution of the United States. It's subdivided into Articles and Sections with limited text. If it was in novel format, would we be able to understand and follow it as easily?

Work Instructions that Work: Add Value

Work Instructions must add value! If the instructions include information that is irrelevant or unimportant, employees will see it as a total waste of time. If no one is using the Work Instructions, it usually means that the information captured in them is common knowledge and needed only for employees that are starting out in the new job.

For example, remember going to High School your first day? The building seemed huge. There were so may rooms, so many wings, and you couldn't remember where your locker was? The first day you needed a map to find anything, and after a week or two you could give tours. By the fourth year the building did not seem that big anymore. Then you went to college...and it started all over. So the level of information that you need as you become more familiar with a job decreases.

When the instructions are written, they are written for the new employees or for employees that are transferred into the job. The more experienced employees will not use these instructions on daily basis. They may not see the value in documenting the process in so much detail. The value is to the company for the time when they are sick or on vacation. When they come back from the beach or a skiing trip they will be able to jump right back in since everything just went on ticking as if they never left. If this is not the case, you need to beef up your Work Instructions!

Work Instructions that Work: Are Current

When Work Instructions are not kept current they will lose their value instantaneously. It's not a matter of a bureaucracy, it's a matter of trust. If an employee follows an instruction and it is wrong, he or she will not trust the documents any more. When you picked up a text book at school, you did not question the information that was in it. You read it and believed every word.

I remember when I first started working as a project engineer. I took out drawings from the master file, designed my installation, purchased equipment, sent drawings to construction and found out that the piping I was connecting to was dismantled five years before, there was insufficient power since three other pieces were installed since the last time the drawing was updated. I had to start from scratch and project was delayed and way over the original cost estimates. After that I never trusted the drawings, I verified everything in the field before starting any design. This wasted a lot of time for my company.

Work Instructions that are obsolete may sometimes cause more damage than if they did not exist.

Work Instructions that Work: Are Documented and Accessible

"Joe, when you see the yellow label on a package you need to open it, test the product and seal it up again."

Yes, that is a form of a Work Instruction, but will it work or will you hear yourself saying again "Joe, I told you last week, when you see the yellow label..." and Joe responds " I wasn't here last week." Many instructions are given daily to employees over and over again. Employees are accused of not listening or being insubordinate. When you give verbal instructions you cover only employees that are present. Depending on the complexity of instructions an employee may not get all the pertinent information. Depending on how many directions are thrown at the employee at the same time he or she may not remember them all. Some employees need to refresh the information on their own time without feeling inadequate.

Yes, for Work Instructions to work they need to be: documented , accessible, up to date, consistent and easy to read, and most of all add value. If you get all these ingredients in that's great. Now you need to implement them, but that's another Work Instruction.

Danuta Highet

Foqus, Inc. October, 2008

Related Articles
Privacy Policy Copyright © 2000-2022 All Rights Reserved, Foqus, Inc., PO Box 910, New Smyrna Beach, FL 32170 Copyright