I think everyone is familiar with procedures, but do we really know what they are?  Dictionary definitions vary, but they typically suggest a procedure is:

  • A manner of proceeding; a way of performing or effecting something.
  • A series of steps taken to accomplish an end.
  • A set of established forms or methods for conducting the affairs of an organised body such as a business, club, or government.

Interestingly none of the definitions refer to written documents. However, in practice it is generally accepted that a procedure is written in a way that describes a task method.

What do procedures look like?

The term 'procedure' is used widely, but there are many other names for documents that describes methods of work, including:

  • Instruction or work instruction
  • Safe or standard operating procedure (often shortened to SOP)
  • Method statement
  • Job method
  • Safe system of work
  • Standing order.

Whilst some organisations may differentiate between these different types of document it is important to realise that there is no universally agreed standard, and the same issues apply to all.

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