A series to help Small Business with Procedure Writing
Kevin’s Blog series about writing work instructions in a small business, based on the ISO quality management philosophy.
Hi, I’ve been a technical writer for some time, and while most clients have been larger companies I have also done work with smaller businesses; but not much in the way of procedure writing.
With no stats or surveys whatsoever to back me up, I’d say there’s a pattern:
the smaller the business, the more likely it is their procedures are written completely in-house.
There’s nothing wrong with this. Smaller businesses usually decide based on their available resources, preferring to use internal personnel rather than add additional cost to their budget. The glitch is the personnel is often the business owner / operator or manager. If this is you, I feel your pain and want to help if I can.
I was 47 when I took up technical writing as an occupation. Since then, I’ve mostly written about industrial process, power engineering and workplace issues like safety training and work practices. I had no education in writing after high school. My work history was my qualification. I only had to learn how to write!
So I’ve been at it for a decade, making fewer and fewer mistakes as I caught on. I’ve even had the privilege to act as an editor on a couple of projects being worked on by several writers. I think reading and editing other people’s work was most influential in understanding how to write and the rules of precise informative writing.
I work for a small business. I’m the internal personnel mentioned above.
While updating a few of our own work instructions (some I wrote myself or signed off on years before), I found problems with formatting, confusing statements and too many simply bad sentences. I hadn’t realized the improvement in my writing and editing. Talking about this in the office led to the idea of offering writing tips to other small business employees who write procedures or work instructions.
I’ve been an armour corps soldier, steel fabricator and process engineer; in turn working for the government (army), a small business owner/operator, and a multinational chemical producer, respectively. The point I’m making is: after working with procedures developed by the military, as well as both small and large budget companies, I think the ISO procedural documents system is worth mimicking in a smaller business. It works and will be recognized by anyone experienced with ISO certified companies. I just don’t see a reason to come up with a completely unique system.
If you’re involved with procedure writing, check out the rest of the series for some information, writing tips and suggestions for small businesses.
Kevin Fox is a technical writer at Contendo. He is a power engineer with a background in process operations, steel fabrication and military.