3 Tips For Starting a Procedure Project from Scratch

Having trouble starting your procedure project?

Having trouble starting your procedure project?

Are you starting a new procedure project from scratch and having trouble getting started?

For many people at the onset of an important project (procedure or otherwise), starting is the hardest part.  A large or complicated project can seem overwhelming or intimidating. Some people are slowed by analysis paralysis, focusing on specific details before having a grasp of their overall goals.  Others start without ever thinking anything through and hope things just work out along the way.

Setting up a project for success is actually fairly easy with a little forethought and structure. Below are three tips to help you get a quick and sustainable jump on your new project.

  1. Do your research.

    Review all existing workflow process maps and compliance/business requirements for the procedures and processes you will be writing.  The length or detail of the process maps is fundamental to the development of procedures that will meet or exceed the human factored procedure program requirements.  While evaluating a process map, it is vital to receive 100% alignment from management and the subject matter experts.  Having this alignment will prevent re-work and confusion down the road, as well as setting the correct level of detail.  This research must be complete prior to building the step-by-step instructions. Failure to do this may result in embedding unnecessary human error likely situations as a result of direction changes that can occur during step reorganization.

  2. Establish a plan with clear expectations.

    It’s extremely important to establish a mutually agreed to foundation and framework of the project. This typically includes a charter and project schedule. This will ensure the controls are in place throughout the lifecycle of the project to guarantee a sustainable and successful plan. Start by developing a high-level schedule, or lifecycle, that each workflow process map (or procedure) will follow from beginning through finalization and publication. Consider research, writing, reviewing, incorporation of comments, and approving, as well as metric milestones as needed.

  3. Assemble the right team.

    Involving the right personnel is key to the success of a procedure project.  The team can either be working face-to-face or via web conferencing.  There should be a team lead (Project Manager – in some cases this may also be the procedure writer), procedure writers, reviewers, approvers and dedicated subject matter experts assigned as points of contact. Obtain a listing and contact information of key personnel and subject matter experts and their availability. Include phone numbers, email contacts and notes indicating task/level of involvement. Consider the availability of subject matter experts to address questions timely (in addition to their day to-day work load) as another important factor when assembling the team and creating the project schedule.

For more information on Human-Factored Writing and other Procedure Writing Tips, subscribe to our blog using the link to the right of this post.  Or, visit our services page for more information on our staffing, training, or consulting services.

Three Reasons Why You Should Consider Contract Employment.

Have you dreamed of taking a long vacation in the summer, but never could under traditional employment models? Selecting the right contract employment opportunities can make this a reality.

Have you dreamed about taking a long vacation, but never could under traditional employment models? Selecting the right contract employment opportunities can make this a reality.

Consider the following U.S. employment statistics regarding contract employment:

  • Approximately 40% of the employed workforce consists of contingent workers – an off shoot of “non-traditional” employment, including: freelancers, independent professionals, temporary contract workers, and independent contractors. (Jobenomics Blog “U.S.-Employment Analysis Q2-2016”)
  • Of those contingent workers, the staffing industry alone employs a weekly average of over 3 million temporary and contract professionals in a variety of US companies. (American Staffing Association)
  • Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA) forecasts predict that the staffing industry will enjoy continued growth in 2017.

While these statistics are impressive, the thought of transitioning to a contract job from a tradition employment position can be unsettling for many people.

So…What is the appeal?

For those willing embrace a bit of ambiguity, the benefits of taking a contract role can be great for both career and work-life balance.  Here are our top 3:

  1. Work Flexibility.

    One of the big perks of switching to contract employment is the ability to decide when and where you want to work. You have the option of accepting positions that fit your schedule in places where you actually want to work. Have you dreamed of taking a long vacation in the summer, but never could with a traditional situation? Selecting the right contract positions can make this a reality. For example, it is entirely possible for you to work a six month position in Florida and then take a month or two off before accepting a position in Colorado or California.  It is common for our recruiters to speak with professionals that routinely take months off in between assignments to travel and spend time with family. With contract work, you have increased flexibility with your work schedule that many professionals simply do not have.

  2. Potential to Increase Your Earnings.

    Depending on the position and the client, contract workers often earn more money working in a contract assignment. In our experience, individuals with desired skill sets have the potential to earn significantly more on contract assignments as they would doing the same job in traditional permanent employment. At one time, this may have been compensation for a lack of benefits. However, more and more staffing firms are now offering benefits to contract employees that are comparable to benefits offered by employers of similar size. At Procedure Solutions Management, we offer comprehensive health, vision, dental, life insurance and 401k plans to contract and corporate employees alike.  Thanks to benefit offerings and potential to earnings increases, contract assignments are a viable option for many professionals.

  3. Expand Your Professional Network and Company Portfolio.

    Contract employment provides more opportunities to work with other industry professionals and grow your professional network. A survey conducted by LinkedIn.com in February 2016, found that approximately 85% of today’s jobs are landed due to networking. The increased level of exposure achieved through contract positions can lead to increased contacts and referrals that serve to further career aspirations.  Referrals are integral to the success of both staffing firms and candidates.  Our recruiters have seen first hand how having the right referrals and contacts can help land a “dream job” for their candidates.

Bonus (one more for those entering the workforce):

Explore Your Options.

In college, there is something to be said for taking a variety of courses before deciding on your major. This can give you a better understanding of your interests. It could even prevent you from switching majors halfway through your third year. Why not explore your job options, in the same fashion, before choosing where you want to settle down. Contract work can provide you with an opportunity to “try out” a variety of companies and see which ones are a match for your job interests and work preferences. It may also give you a chance to work on a more diverse array of projects with different teams under varying management styles.


To conclude…

A certain degree of apprehension is understandable, but pursuing contract employment can be very beneficial. Like any career decision, it’s about understanding your options, assessing the risks, weighing the benefits, and ultimately deciding to do what works best for you!

For more Contract Employment Information, subscribe to our blog using the link to the right of this post. Or, visit Employment Opportunities page for a list of our current job openings.

A critical step as defined by the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO) is: “A procedure step, series of steps, or action that, if performed improperly will cause irreversible harm to plant equipment or people or will significantly impact plant operation.”[1]

Critical Step – The Great Misconception!



For any “high risk” industry, the ability to successfully execute tasks in a consistent, high-quality manner is as critically important today as it has ever been. The predictability of the outcome of these tasks is crucial in ensuring the safe and reliable execution of work processes. This is especially true for utilities.  According to a March 2015 Electric Light and Power article, “more than one-half of the current utility workforce will be eligible to retire in the next 6-8 years.” A similar article from Power Engineering puts that number even higher.

The Bottom line is: The aging workforce issue and the resultant hiring of less experienced staff is guaranteed to place higher demands on the creation and/or maintenance (routine updating) of procedures and work instructions.

Which brings us to critical steps…

Many industries have (or are now adopting) rules to identify “critical steps” in procedures and work instructions during the creation or revision of these documents and/or just prior to work execution (e.g. during pre-job briefs).

A critical step, as defined by the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO), is:

“A procedure step, series of steps, or action that, if performed improperly will cause irreversible harm to plant equipment or people or will significantly impact plant operation.”[1]

If you are in an industry that does not have a “plant,” the significant impact could be simply the direct result of an unfavorable outcome that may include irreversible harm.

Industry guidance also provides the following additional guidance for consideration:

“Critical steps for a procedure or work instruction are identified during the task preview or pre-job briefing.

When preparing to execute a critical step, the performer stops to review the situation to ensure the following:

Current conditions match expected conditions. If job-site or system conditions are different than expected, the performer stops, contacts the supervisor, and resolves the difference prior to proceeding.

The expected results of step performance are understood.

The correct component is verified before the critical step is performed.

The focus is on the task at hand as each action is performed.”[1]

Where is the Misconception?!!  Continue reading…

This industry guidance has been around for a number of years in the commercial nuclear industry and it has been fairly successful.  However, as the workforce changes, a word of caution is needed.

It is important for personnel, and most notably supervisory personnel, to understand that the identification of a critical step using the guidance provided above may only help to identify where the failure is going to occur versus preventing irreversible harm.

Personnel and supervisors must be aware that every action step consists of three main parts: “Who, What, and How.”

I think we would all agree that during critical step identification the “who” is the person designated to perform the step; consequently ownership is clearly identified.

Where the misconception most commonly occurs is ensuring the critical step clearly communicates the correct level of detail to ensure the successful completion of the step; or simply stated: the balance between an instruction step that directs “what-to-do” or “how-to-do.”

At every step, the performer must clearly understand “how” to perform the task. When the step is identified as critical, it must be understood without question. No in-field decisions. No assumptions. So, despite having an understanding of the expected results, it is more imperative that the performer understands “how” the step is to be performed especially if the instruction is written at only the “what-to-do” level for detail.


To conclude, the misconception is this:  despite industry efforts to proactively identify the location of critical steps, it is even more important that the critical step provides the correct level of detail that aligns with the needs of the performer.  Supervisors need to ensure that not only is the expected result clearly understood, but also that the performer clearly understands “how” to perform the task and has the tools to be successful.

Author’s note:  The Institute of Nuclear Power Operations guideline is used as a reference herein.  However, the concept of a critical step is applicable to any high-risk industry.

[1] Institute of Nuclear Power Operations, “Guideline for Excellence in Procedure and Work Instruction Use and Adherence.” Rev. 0, June 2011

Interested in learning more about how Procedure Solutions Management can make your Human-Factored writing more successful?  Please contact us for more information.

For additional details on how to determine the correct level of detail, check out Level of Detail – Not Just the Who, What, How.  If you like our content, subscribe to our blog using the link to the right of this post.