Working Procedures: Criticism and Objections

Working Procedures: Criticism and Objections

Working Procedures: Dealing with the Dark Side of Procedures
The Dark Side of Procedures

Last time I told you that I use Working Procedures to manage some of the processes in my business. In that post I touched on one objection to the approach, but there are others which I intend to address.

Common objections to using Working Procedures, and my responses

Here are the objections that were raised when I started using Working Procedures. I phrased some of them as rhetorical questions, and some were even raised by me!

  • I don’t have time to write it down – I mentioned this last time, but I’ll deal with it at more length here. This was one of my objections. I’ve found that I do have time. This morning I encountered a task which I only do once a year. I couldn’t remember the details. This time I wrote down what I needed to do as I did it and turned it into a procedure. The very act of writing it down reminded me of something I had overlooked. Job done!
  • You can’t think of all the procedures in advance –No you can’t and I don’t think you should try. I prefer to create the first version of the procedure when I need it.
  • You can’t think of all the exceptions in advance – Agreed! Instead regard the procedures as work-in-progress. Each time you use a procedure, you test it! If you encounter a problem, then look on that as an opportunity to improve the procedure. You are going to solve the problem, why not record the solution at the same time.
  • I don’t want to be “ordering people around” – And neither do I! I want to get things done. Sam Carpenter insists that the procedures should be developed “bottom up” rather than “top down”. That way they contain what “the user” needs, rather than what someone else thinks they need.
  • Won’t they get out of date? They won’t if you keep on using them, regard the use as a test and make updates as required. Of course, you need to have some sort of approval and change-control but that needn’t be onerous.
  • Won’t the maintenance effort become a burden? I haven’t found it so. I use a mixture of a wiki and a tool called BDS (Business Documentation Software) that Sam Carpenter promotes.  I’ve included a snap-shot of one of my procedures from BDS. I’m sure that having the procedures in more than one place violates some rule or another, but it works for me!
Working Procedures: An example procedure in BDS
Example procedure from BDS


Creating and maintaining written procedures has a cost, but I believe the benefits far outweigh that cost. Also, there are some things which you might call “objections in principle”. The secret is to think about what the objections tell us and manage what we do so that we use Working Procedures more effectively and actually gain more.

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