Sofema Aviation Services (www.sassofia.com) looks at the basics of writing aviation procedures.
In aviation, we have procedures for just about every activity. As we should understand, procedures are connected to policies as well as the need to demonstrate regulatory compliance.
Procedures should provide sufficient instruction to avoid ambiguity and should deliver the message.
Well-written procedures help you improve the quality of work within your organization, help you reduce the number of errors and omissions, and help new people perform complex tasks quickly and effectively.
To understand exactly what we should do and how we should do it. (delivered in a step by step systematic way)
The procedures should be user-friendly – If we allow the procedures to be outdated or incorrect or even ambiguous (misleading) people will not use them.
For example In PART M – CAR M / Part 145 – CAR 145 environment we have the following documents :
a) Continuous Airworthiness Management Exposition (CAME) and / or
b) Maintenance Organization Exposition (MOE) Procedures as well as a myriad of other documents including Procedural Documents
Procedures are used throughout the business process to show how a task or process should be completed.
Note – Policies typically provide guidance as to how decisions should be made
Procedures are usually action-oriented, which means they should outline the steps which should be taken as well as the order in which they need to be taken.
Well-written procedures are strong in content, precise, factual, short, and to the point.
The Role of QA & QC and Technical Procedures
We should understand that procedures belong within the QC environment but facilitate the functioning of the QA process.
Without procedures, auditing becomes very challenging. (Ultimately it is the business area owner or post holder / nominated person (NP) who has the final ownership and responsibility for the integrity of the procedure.)
Where do we go wrong with procedures?
Consider the Shortfall you have noted with Procedures and other technical documentation
For example, we can lose sight of our target audience or make the procedures overly long.
Make sure each procedure is adding value to the business process – means it is necessary.
How to Write a Good Procedure?
Procedures should communicate what readers need to know, not just what they want to know. They might need to know how to do the process correctly, faster, or with less waste.
Before you start writing, gather detailed information on the process you’re making into a procedure.
Talk with business area owners and subject matter experts, Key stakeholders as well as end-users.
Note – It may seem a somewhat strange rule but in fact it is not unusual that the person who is writing the procedure is not entirely familiar with the process, This is not a problem in itself as long as he procedure author develops a total understanding of what is required (possibly be developing flow charts to support the understanding of the process.)
So Rule No 1 – Keep the procedure simple (do not overcomplicate with numbering systems.)
Do not make the procedure too brief and ensure there is a clear understanding of the process in a form that provides the information to which the end-user really needs to familiarize and understand the process.
Rule No 2 – Imagine the reader of the procedure is relying on your procedure to do the task correctly without reference to colleagues.
This means your procedure should be stand-alone, and at the same time to refer to every applicable element and requirement to complete the task.
Additional or superfluous information is often not a good idea. Use diagrams charts or graphics if possible.
Clearly mark any warnings or cautions. Identify warnings with Bold Italics or to use the term.
Important Note Ensure any warnings are clear and bold and delivered before each action step and separate from the action steps.
Avoiding multiple steps in a paragraph as this is potentially a human factors problem because of the possibility that steps may be missed.
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.
Use the active voice. (Means Direct Instruction)
Use lists and bullets where this adds to the presentation of information in a process orientation format
If the procedure is a sub procedure from a higher level make sure you connect the two and they are in step.
Consider the Use of Flow Charts to support the Procedure Text as often a visual workflow diagram will help to provide a visual understanding of the total procedure.
(Actions are normally placed in Blocks with Decisions in Diamonds)
Rule No 3 – Raise awareness amongst users of the Content (not specifics) of the Procedures also identify where procedures are available.
It is never intended that people should be required to “learn” procedures (as they may change) rather than the user is trained to a level whereby he has an understanding of where to find the information.
Rule No 4 – Make sure the Procedure has the correct level of detail, and all abbreviations may be understood – use short sentences, be direct and use the correct tense what you should do to achieve the desired outcome.
Rule No 5 – The importance of ownership.
The Responsible Person must sign off on the procedure. Ownership of the procedure is very important, as any discrepancy noted during quality assurance audits of the procedures will be the responsibility of the business area owner and ultimately the post holder to rectify.
Rule No 6 – Testing the Procedure.
Quality Assurance (QA) will audit the procedure during the audit cycle, in addition, many processes involve a signature from QA before the procedure is issued. Attesting to the correctness of the procedure to comply with both regulatory and organizational obligations
(this is not the same as saying the procedure is effective!)
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