Procedures

Procedures are the how-tos of completing a task and are action-oriented. Good procedures are solid, precise, factual, short, and to the point.

The following information has been developed using information found at www.mindtools.com.


1. Identify if you need a procedure

The number-one rule of procedure writing is to make sure there’s a reason to create them. A written procedure is necessary only if the issue is important or if there will be a significant benefit from clarifying a process. Some general questions to ask yourself to determine if you need a procedure include:

  • Is the task lengthy? For example, coach evaluations.
  • Is the task complex? For example, a tryout process.
  • Is the task routine, but it is essential that everyone strictly follows rules? For example, accepting donations.
  • Does the task demand consistency? For example, receipting of cash.
  • Does the task involve documentation? For example, discipline of a member.
  • Does the task involve a significant change? For example, orientation of new board members.
  • Does the task have serious consequences if done wrong? For example, financial record-keeping.
  • Are similar questions get asked repeatedly? For example, do you register a child?
  • Are people confused? For example, how to run a tryout.
  • Are there too many ways on how to interpret the process? For example, use of the association’s logo.

2. Gather the information

The next step is to gather as much information as possible regarding the procedure you are looking to create. Usually, there is lots of reference material available, and also make sure you are engaging people in the discussion. Naturally you will ask other members of your Board for input. However do not stop there; ask your membership if some people have experience, ask experts in your community for input as most times they are more than happy to help, ask your neighboring associations as they may have had to deal with the same challenges as you, and finally do not hesitate to ask Hockey Alberta.

Ensure you take lots of notes when gathering information and once complete, sit down and sort it out. As the writer, you need to know what is going on is as much detail as possible. From there, your job as the writer is to organize and cut the information down to what the end user needs.

3. Document

When writing the first draft do not worry about exact words or format, your focus is on getting the information that is needed onto paper. Worry about the organization when you are done.

Some helpful hints include:

  • Write actions out in the order in which they happen. Start with the first action, and end with the last action.
  • Avoid too many words. Just be specific enough to communicate clearly. For example: "Add to the Cancellations tab on the spreadsheet" rather than "Supplement the existing records on the spreadsheet with these new ones."
  • Use the active voice. For example: "Place the file in the administrator’s inbox" rather than "The file should then be placed in the administrator’s inbox."
  • Use lists and bullets.
  • Don’t be too brief, or you may give up clarity.
  • Explain your assumptions, and make sure your assumptions are valid.
  • Use jargon and slang carefully.
  • Write at an appropriate reading level.

4. Assess design elements

You may find that words alone aren’t enough to explain the procedure. Sometimes other elements can help your presentation. Here are some common formats:

  • Flowchart – This shows a process as a diagram. Using a series of symbols and arrows to indicate flow and action, you can outline a process and make it easy to follow. Be sure you don’t complicate your chart with too many unfamiliar symbols or too much text. If you need to, break it into a series of smaller flowcharts.
  • Swim Lane Diagrams – These mark out the different streams of activity and clearly show where responsibility for completion of activities transfers from one person to the next.
  • Play script – This looks like a script for a play with different characters. In this case, though, you list the different staff members with different responsibilities. Scripts can be especially useful when more than one person is involved in a process.

Person responsible

Action

Writer

  • Gather information.
  • Write procedure.
  • Show draft to stakeholders.

Stakeholders

  • Review draft.
  • Submit corrections and comments.

Writer

  • Create final draft.

Board

  • Approve final version.
  • Question and Answer – Match common procedural questions with their correct answers. This is a useful format when procedures are confusing or when there are lots of variations. It also helps address "what if" issues. Example:
    • Q: What if the columns don’t balance?
    • A: First, don’t panic. Start with the simplest reasons, and work backward. Recalculate the columns. Then look for transcription errors. If this doesn’t solve the problem, go back and look at how you got your figures. If you were unsure of any points, recheck those figures first. Then systematically recheck each figure until you find the error.
  • Matrix – This table connects one variable with another. Where the variables connect, the cell shows the appropriate action. Matrix tables are really good for reference purposes, because they eliminate the need for constant searching. You can use them for many applications, including knowing what tasks to carry out and when, helping users make decisions, and knowing what forms or reports to use.

Budgeting Schedule

Item

Quarter 1

Quarter 2

Quarter 3

Quarter 4

Budget analysis

x

x

x

x

Budget request

x

Income statement

x

x

x

x

Sales forecast

x

x

Customer analysis

x

Staffing analysis

x

5. Test

Once you have believed you have captured the procedure in a clear manner, test it. One of the best ways that this can be accomplished is by having someone who is unfamiliar with the task itself try to complete it with the materials provided such as having another board member trying to “register” a new family. If there are issues, then you may need to review the materials and make any necessary changes.

6. Distribute

When you are confident in what has been developed ensure you distribute to those who need it – including those at the team level. For example, a Procedure on collecting funds should be distributed to team treasurers or managers. The ideal time is when the person is being oriented in the job such as your board orientation, meetings with your tryout evaluators, or your coaches’ meeting.

7. Review

The final step is to review the procedures routinely to ensure that they are still practical, relevant, and part best practices. This does not need to be done every year; however it should be part of a regular review that includes your policies and bylaws.