How to Write a Procedure: The No-Sweat Guide for Busy Agency Owners

Key Takeaways
Learn how to write a procedure that boosts agency efficiency! Our guide simplifies the process, helping you save time and streamline operations
Procedures allow an agency to smoothly operate and stay productive, making it an essential document for growth.
Procedures allow an agency to smoothly operate and stay productive, making it an essential document for growth.

Like any business, digital agencies require a structured framework that equips them for success. Agencies consist of members from diverse locations and backgrounds, hence the need for a means to keep everyone on the same page. Well-defined procedures are the right tools to improve cohesion in our agencies and position them for success.

In this article, we share custom-built guidelines on how to write a step-by-step procedure manual.

What Is a Procedure?

A procedure is a document showing us how to tackle the various stages of a given project and the roles of all parties involved. Broadly speaking, a procedure provides instructions for completing various activities, rather than a standard operating procedure (SOP) which focuses on a specific task.

As agency owners, writing a procedure may expose our deep-seated challenges, such as the constant and rapidly evolving digital market, conflicting priorities, and managing clients with multiple touchpoints while upholding customer satisfaction. To overcome these, we can learn how to write a procedure document that serves our best practices.

Fundamental Steps on How to Write a Good Procedure

Procedure writing is the first step in steering our digital agencies in the right direction. It's the best way to ensure that our online resources are well-distributed across available tasks and to monitor for potential bottlenecks that may appear. Below is an outline of the steps we can take to maneuver the painstaking process of how to write a procedure.

Step 1: Define the Purpose

Before we start drafting, we need to know first why we're writing it to ensure alignment of our procedure with our goals and objectives.
Before we start drafting, we need to know first why we're writing it to ensure alignment of our procedure with our goals and objectives.

Defining our agency's goals is the most basic step in our procedure writing process. Our procedures should meet our goals: increasing client acquisition, maintaining high quality, and abiding with timelines. We need to understand why a procedure is essential for our digital agencies, and only then can we create a suitable draft.

Benefits of a procedure for agencies

Saving time

Documenting tasks and processes can help keep our agency teams organized. This saves us time, as each team member can work on available tasks without waiting for everyone else. It also avoids confusion, duplication of work, and missed deadlines.

Improved collaboration

A documented procedure allows members to see their specific roles clearly. Using the same platform, one team member can share their halfway-done assignment and receive appropriate assistance from another. Members can also collaborate by working on different sections of the same draft.

Written procedures can also facilitate a smooth handover when one member leaves the agency since someone else can pick up where they left off and complete the task.

Seamless new employee onboarding

Our procedure acts as a knowledge bank that can simplify learning and training for new employees.
Our procedure acts as a knowledge bank that can simplify learning and training for new employees.

Documentation of processes enables us to enroll more employees without the need to engage veteran members to orient them. New members can read and refer to the written procedures as often as they need.

Enhanced clarity and productivity

Written procedures help clarify our agency goals and employees' expectations. This minimizes errors and boosts workflow consistency, which, in turn, improves productivity.

Fostering accountability and responsibility

Procedures enable us to hold members accountable for their actions and allow them to take responsibility for their shortcomings. This ensures we don't mistakenly judge team members for the mistakes of others.

Boosts continuous improvement

Documented procedures allow us to keep up with fast-moving trends by adding new information to preexisting data. Our members can also point out areas requiring amendments.

Objectives of procedure documentation for an agency

When thinking about how to write a procedure, we must consider what's relevant to our agencies' survival. We need effective procedures that enhance productivity, save time, and ensure efficient resource utilization. Incorporating our most important survival aspects into the procedure will enable us to attract more customers and remain competitive.

Examples of important processes and procedures our agencies are involved in may include:

  • Creative research and competitive analysis
  • Design
  • Media buying
  • Content creation
  • Campaign management
  • Content marketing
  • Social media strategy
  • Keyword research
  • Web development
  • UI/UX
  • Email marketing

Next, we need to determine the key stakeholders to engage and include in the procedure.

Step 2: Identify Key Stakeholders

When writing a new procedure template, involving the right people in the process is critical. Identifying key stakeholders brings together the minds that genuinely impact and are impacted by the procedure we're developing.

So, let's break down how we can smartly identify and involve these key team members.

The right people for the right procedure template

First, consider who directly interacts with the processes we're mapping. Ask yourself, "Who carries out these tasks daily?" For example, the average employee who spends their day-to-day work life performing these processes becomes our frontline player, and they can provide valuable insight into the process.

However, we shouldn't stop there. We must also consider who oversees these business processes — team leads, the subject matter expert, or even department managers. They can provide a broader perspective on how specific tasks fit the larger operational picture.

In addition, we need to consider the downstream users of these procedures. Which departments or teams are affected by the outputs of these processes? By including them, we can provide insights into the effectiveness and any unintended impacts of the current way of doing things.

Here's a tip:

Create a stakeholder map to visualize each role's connections and influence over the procedure. This flowchart ensures we consider all perspectives, making the next steps of gathering input much smoother.

Gathering input and feedback

Once we've got the right people in the room, open communication is key. We can kick things off with a collaborative session where relevant stakeholders can voice their current pains and identify areas of improvement. Encourage an environment where no idea is too small, and no critique is too sharp — it's all valuable.

Feedback is where we should start our procedure drafting. These insights help refine our procedure, making it better and more effective every time.
Feedback is where we should start our procedure drafting. These insights help refine our procedure, making it better and more effective every time.

In gathering input and feedback, we can use tools such as surveys or feedback forms to collect initial thoughts before the meeting. This will allow us to hear everyone's voices and give everyone a chance to provide input without pressuring them too much.

When we hold these sessions for input and feedback, we should use techniques such as the following to probe deeply into the process:

  • Brainstorming
  • Five Whys

These techniques allow us to uncover hidden issues or opportunities for improvement, enabling us to gather as much relevant information as possible and make the SOP document as effective and efficient as possible.

Additionally, we must keep our lines of communication open even after the meeting has ended. Setting up a shared document or a dedicated communication channel will allow stakeholders to add further insights as they arise. We can also conduct regular check-ins as we develop the standard operating procedure document to ensure we don't miss any last-minute thoughts and everyone stays on the same page.

By keeping Step 2 structured yet flexible, our procedures are guaranteed to be thorough, embraced, and effectively implemented.

Step 3: Draft the Procedure

Every standard operating procedure document needs a solid structure.

Here's what we should include to ensure ours is up to snuff:

  • Title: Our procedure should start with a clear, descriptive title that instantly informs anyone of the procedure's purpose.
  • Purpose: This section of the SOP template indicates why we're writing this procedure. Define goals clearly so everyone understands the expected outcome.
  • Scope: Outline where the procedure applies and list any limitations to prevent misuse or confusion.
  • Responsibilities: This section answers the question, "Who's involved?" and clearly defines roles and responsibilities so everyone knows their part.
  • Materials and Resources: This section lists what we need to execute the procedure, including tools, forms, software, etc.
  • Procedure Steps: Now, we concisely and precisely break down the tasks into numbered steps. Each step should lead logically to the next.
  • Safety or Compliance Notes: Include any relevant safety protocols or regulatory requirements the team must follow.
  • FAQs or Troubleshooting: This section anticipates any potential questions or issues related to the procedure and aims to guide you through their handling.

This structure keeps our procedure template organized and makes it easier for anyone to follow.

 Following a structure keeps your procedure document from being too confusing, making it easier for anyone to follow.
Following a structure keeps your procedure document from being too confusing, making it easier for anyone to follow.

Savvy tips for clear, actionable writing

When writing procedures, clarity is king. Here are some top tips on how to write a procedure template that's as clear and actionable as possible:

  • Use simple language. Avoid jargon when writing our procedure template unless absolutely necessary. If we must use technical terms, let's define them to ensure everyone is on the same page.
  • Be direct and concise. The procedure template should be straight to the point. Use active voice (e.g., "Enter the data into the spreadsheet" rather than "Data should be entered into the spreadsheet.") to make the steps easier to follow.
  • Use bullet points and numbering. These help us break down information into digestible, easy-to-follow steps.
  • Include visuals. Where possible, add diagrams, flowcharts, or photos. Visual elements help clarify complex processes and steps, ensuring the document is easier to follow and understand.
  • Test the procedure. Before we finalize our draft, allow someone unfamiliar with the process try to beta-test the document. They can provide feedback to help us identify confusing parts and adjust accordingly.

The above structure and tips guarantee that our procedure is well-drafted, ensuring it can become a knowledge base for current and new employees.

Step 4: Test and Refine

Alright, we've completed the first draft of our procedure, and it looks good on paper. However, it doesn't stop there — we must see how it holds up in the wild. By testing the procedure in real scenarios, we can verify that what we've put together works as intended and isn't just theoretical.

So, let's look at how we test and refine our procedures to make them as robust as possible.

Testing in real scenarios: Why is it important?

Think of this step as a dress rehearsal before a big show. We need to make sure everything runs smoothly, and every cue is spot-on. By testing the procedure in the environment where it will be used, we uncover gaps or unclear steps that might not have been obvious during the drafting process.

During this testing phase, we have the chance to do the following:

  • Verify comprehensiveness: Does the procedure cover all the necessary steps from start to finish without assuming too much?
  • Check for practicality: Is the procedure realistic? Can employees follow it easily under normal operating conditions?
  • Identify safety or compliance issues: Are all safety protocols clearly outlined and followed? Do we comply with all relevant regulations?

Having different team members do a "test drive" on the procedure also allows us to see how it performs across varying levels of expertise and perspectives, which is invaluable.

Refining the procedure based on feedback

After testing, we gather everyone involved for a feedback session. Here, we open the floor to hear what worked, what didn't, and how we can tighten things up.

Allowing room for feedback refines our procedure to a T.
Allowing room for feedback refines our procedure to a T.

Below are some steps on how we should handle the refinement process:

  1. Organize feedback: We should group the feedback into categories — what's related to clarity, step sequence, concerns about materials or tools, etc., so we can tackle issues systematically.
  2. Prioritize changes: Some feedback will undoubtedly be more critical than others. Prioritize changes that impact functionality and compliance over cosmetic or preferential adjustments.
  3. Update the procedure: Now, we need to make the necessary revisions, clarify if a step was inconsistently misunderstood or caused inefficiencies, and add a tool to the list if it is missing.
  4. Test again: Yes, we might need to do a few rounds of this. Think of it as an iterative design. Each round should bring us closer to a procedure that's as close to perfect as possible.
  5. Final review: Once we feel confident that we've refined the procedure effectively, let's do one last run-through with the team to confirm that they've understood all the changes, making the procedure ready for full implementation.

By rigorously testing and refining our procedure, we ensure it's a useful and reliable standard that our team can depend on. Remember, our goal is to create something that makes everyone's job easier and more efficient, so it's worth the extra effort to get it right.

Step 5: Implement and Train

Congratulations! We've crafted, tested, and refined our procedure, and now it's ready for the big leagues.

Implementing and training might seem like the end of the road, but really, it's where all our hard work starts to pay off. Let's ensure we roll this out smoothly and effectively to get everyone up to speed.

Here's how we can certify that all our new procedures launch without a hitch and stick.

Training teams on how to use the procedure is key to maintaining its effectiveness once it's implemented.
Training teams on how to use the procedure is key to maintaining its effectiveness once it's implemented.

Rolling out the new procedure: Best practices to follow

Rolling out a new procedure isn't simply about sending an email and calling it a day. We need a strategy to know if everyone is on board and fully understands the changes.

Below is our game plan to achieve this goal.

  1. Communicate clearly and effectively. Before we go live, let's determine that everyone knows what's coming. Communicate the purpose, benefits, and any essential changes from the old procedure. This helps manage expectations and reduce resistance.
  2. Set a go-live date. Choose a specific date and time to switch to the new procedure. This will give everyone a clear deadline for when the changes will take effect and allow us to coordinate training sessions before the big day.
  3. Provide comprehensive resources. Don't let the team scramble for information. Provide them with all the necessary resources— the procedure document, quick reference guides, FAQs, or even a dedicated intranet page.
  4. Appoint procedure champions. Identify and train key team members who can act as procedure champions, whom we will call the SME. They will become the go-to for anyone with questions or who needs extra guidance during the transition.

Training tips to keep in mind

Training is crucial in any business process. It's not just for compliance but also to confirm if the procedure is as efficient as possible.

Here are some tips and tricks to make our training sessions effective:

  • Tailor training to different learning styles. Let's face it — we all learn differently. Some of us do best with hands-on practice, while others prefer to read through the steps independently. Offering a variety of training methods to cover all the bases is a good way to solve this — workshops, one-on-one sessions, written materials, and maybe even some instructional videos.
  • Use real-life scenarios. When it comes to training, context is everything. Use real-life scenarios to demonstrate the procedure, so our team understands the "how" and the "why" behind each step.
  • Schedule follow-up sessions. One and done? Not when it comes to training. Schedule follow-up sessions to revisit the material, answer any lingering questions, and address practical issues that might have cropped up.
  • Gather feedback on training. After each training session, identify what worked well and what didn't. This feedback will help us improve future training sessions and ensure that our team genuinely benefits from the information provided.

Draft an Effective Procedure Today

You've just navigated through the essential steps to crafting a solid procedure for your agency. Let's quickly recap the benefits and solidify why our actions will make a real difference:

  • Efficiency and clarity. Our new procedure cuts through ambiguity and expedites operations.
  • Consistency in operations. It guarantees every team member is on the same page, reducing errors and enhancing quality.
  • Team empowerment. Provides our staff with the confidence to perform tasks according to a proven standard.
  • Scalability. Prepares our agencies for growth, making training new staff and delegating responsibilities easier.

Implementing a new procedure isn't the end of our journey. It's the beginning. Our culture should welcome feedback, with improvements continuously sought. Remember, the best procedures evolve with our agency, adapting to new challenges and opportunities.

Ready to amplify your project management? Check out our Project Management Pillar at ScaleTime and streamline your processes further. Let's keep pushing the boundaries of what our teams can achieve together!

Business operations consultant Juliana Marulanda
Juliana Marulanda - ScaleTime Founder
Juliana Marulanda is a business operations expert, speaker, and the founder of ScaleTime. With over 20 years of experience across Wall Street, the non-profit sector, technology startups, and family-owned businesses, she now helps service-based businesses.
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