The PPA’s Annual Procedure Symposium is a fantastic opportunity to network with industry professionals, learn the latest industry trends, and hone your skills in procedure writing.

The Procedure Professionals Association (PPA) recently held its 34th Annual Procedure Symposium on June 20-22, 2023 in Savannah, GA. This year’s symposium was a global event attended by 40+ companies from industries such as agriculture, utilities, oil and gas, the Department of Energy (DOE), the Department of Defense (DOD), and engineering. The PPA invited industry experts to share their experiences and expertise to help generate discussions around upcoming technological advancements. These discussions created priceless connections that transcended industry and geographical location. The symposium is a fantastic opportunity to network with industry professionals, learn the latest industry trends, and hone your skills in procedure writing. The future of procedures is evolving fast, and this year’s symposium provided many valuable moments for networking and knowledge enhancement. As PSM’s Operations Director, I assisted in representing our company at this year’s symposium. I attended multiple breakout sessions and even gave my own talk on the 18 human performance error traps. Here are some of my highlights from the PPA’s 34th Annual Procedure Symposium.

My experience

Participants were invited to attend a general session each day to discuss comprehensive topics such as the importance of a good questioning attitude and procedure use and adherence. The remainder of each day was divided into individual breakout sessions presented by over 23 industry experts. These breakout sessions covered various topics, such as dynamic procedures, administrative procedures, human performance error traps, and more. I enjoyed these breakout sessions because each speaker provided expert-level information, allowing attendees to connect with others who share the same passion for human-factored procedure excellence. We were able to bond in new ways and better understand each other’s role in this ever-evolving world of procedures.

This is what we discussed during these breakout sessions:

  • Dynamic/Digital Procedure World – During the vendor presentation breakout sessions, there was heavy discussion about the advancements in dynamic and digital procedures. The automatic capture of details around performance data, such as step cycle time, delays, holds, etc., was impressive because it can be immediately available, automatically trended, analyzed, and visualized to reveal deviations and drive continuous improvement. However, despite everyone wanting to be in a dynamic and digital procedure world, the content is still the most crucial component. If the procedure writing content, methods, and fundamentals are lacking, a dynamic procedure can still not succeed.
  • Administrative Procedures – During a breakout session on “Adopting the PPA Standards for Administrative Procedures,” many attendees questioned whether administrative procedures should be written like technical procedures. We learned that the answer is YES. While we’re used to seeing administrative procedures written differently than technical procedures with a mix of command and information sentences and active and passive voice, we learned that by applying the requirements, you can significantly improve administrative procedure usability.
  • Human Performance Error Traps – I conducted this interactive breakout session to examine the error traps often found in procedures. Attendees were given procedure step examples to evaluate and identify error traps and then correct them in a human-factored manner as a group. This session generated a lot of engagement as the attendees deliberated on how to fix each error trap and shared the most frequent error traps they encounter in their procedures.

PSM’s Manager of Project Services, Jennifer Smith, discussed the 18 human performance error traps and other valuable practices for writing procedures.

PSM’s Experience

We were represented at the PPA Symposium by our Founder, Stephen McCord, and myself, Operations Director, Jennifer Smith.

Steve served as the opening day speaker, discussing the importance of a good questioning attitude and how this practice can prevent fatalities and equipment damage. He analyzed several industry events reported by the Chemical Safety Board and assessed how a lack of a questioning attitude, especially during the procedure review process, resulted in fatalities and significant equipment damage. Steve then shared the standard guidance found in PPA AP-907-001, Procedure Process Description, and helped identify what tools could have been used to eliminate those challenges.

Later in the week, I conducted my breakout session to share the value of identifying and eliminating human performance error traps. With digital and dynamic procedures at the forefront of the symposium, I wanted to revisit the procedure basics and highlight that content is still the most vital component of crafting a human-factored procedure. The attendees were tasked with analyzing real-world examples of error traps and brainstorming how these steps could be rewritten to eliminate those errors.

This generated a great deal of participation amongst the attendees as they exchanged stories of the error traps they encounter most frequently at their facilities. Many people viewed this breakout session as a tool to help them significantly improve their own procedure quality. It was gratifying to share the same passion for this topic with the group and to create a shared discussion that transcended industries.

Later in the symposium, we supported breakout sessions by our new partners at DeepHow and Info-graphics. They held separate presentations to demonstrate how their products bridge the skills gap and make knowledge more accessible among skilled workers.

DeepHow displayed the features of their AI-powered video-centric learning platform and how this tool is already creating a more efficient and accessible transfer of knowledge amongst the evolving workforce. They illustrated how they utilize the latest AI technology to develop step-by-step how-to videos that capture a team’s know-how. These videos create a library of organizational knowledge that is transferable to every worker and can be translated into multiple languages.

Info-graphics demonstrated their ability to simplify complex information through instructional design. They showed how they use photographs, illustrations, motion graphics, and animations to break through language barriers, differing learning levels, and generational gaps.

DeepHow and Info-graphics are changing the future of this industry, and it was an exciting moment to spotlight the innovative ways they’re empowering our evolving workforce.

Info-graphics President/CEO, Rob Eddy, demonstrates how instructional design, animation & video, and 3D rendering help simplify complex information and inspire confidence in procedure users.

The Value of PPA’s Annual Symposium

The PPA’s Annual Symposium encourages industry-wide collaboration, allowing us to learn from one another and create improved and evolved procedures. By attending the symposium, you are automatically granted a one-year PPA membership. This membership provides access to industry-standard guidance documents and communication with highly experienced procedure writers, supervisors, and managers. The most valuable benefit of being a PPA member is having a support system of fellow industry professionals to connect with and learn from globally.

As an attendee, you can always count on facilitated discussions geared toward specific disciplines such as operations, maintenance, administration, and more. These discussions provide understanding and a chance to challenge workplace norms and build a better strategy for creating human-factored procedures. There are plenty of benchmarking opportunities to compare your facility’s procedure program against the PPA industry standards.

The PPA’s membership also allows you to network with industry leaders and fellow peers from facilities with similar characteristics such as size, location, function, or sector to assess strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for improvement.

If you want to hone your skills in procedure writing, network with industry professionals, and learn more about the latest industry trends, the PPA’s Procedure Symposium is the premier industry event to achieve these goals. I’m delighted that we continue to sponsor the PPA Annual Symposium, and we thank all the other sponsors for their contributions.

Click here to learn more about the PPA’s Annual Symposium, procedure writer certifications, and to become a member.

By Jennifer Smith, Operations Director