P&P Policies and Procedures Consulting
P&P Policies and Procedures Consulting

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The Policies & Procedures Authority – The newsletter about the art of transforming workplace learning and performance through Policies & Procedures Communication

The Importance of Performance-Based vs. Subject-Based Policies & Procedures

– Raymond E. Urgo


On what basis is your policies and procedures (P&P) content designed, written, and organized—performance-based or subject-based, and why should it matter?

Definition: performance-based vs. subject-based

Performance-based communication is content designed, written, and organized to focus upon the way content users need to perform (How to do something).

Subject-based communication is content designed, written, and organized to focus on what users need to know about.

Preference of users

Research indicates that 80 percent of users of P&P content prefer performance-based content. Most users seek information to take action, make a decision, accomplish a task, or create an output—not only to have knowledge. While knowledge is needed to perform, the actual performance drives the need to know and the mindset from which most users are motivated to perform.


Most people would not want to know the ingredients in a meatloaf or the temperature at which meatloaf is best baked just for the sake of knowing about it. They would want to know these facts only if they want to prepare and bake a meatloaf.

The secretary to the accounting manager needs to know what the maximum dollar level of office supplies is for management approval. She/he would only need to know this to be able to prepare a purchase order request.

In both instances, the knowledge needed would be organized to support the “how to do” content, and not “what to know” content.

Consequences of subject-based content

Organizations and product providers that use subject-based P&P content leave most users wasting time figuring out what to do out of the what-to-know content. Our observation is that 90 percent of organizations habitually use subject-based P&P content. The consequences are ineffective P&P that is inefficient for searching, accessing, reading, comprehending, and maintaining content. The result is increased errors, workplace interruptions, non-compliance, and wasted time.


Most organizations use subject-based rather than performance-based communication for their P&P content. Most users, however, prefer performance-based communication. Organizations that want to meet their users’ needs and preferences for P&P content that will have a significant impact on organizational performance should shift their approach to performance-based content. Only then will the negative consequences be avoided.

For assistance in having performance-based P&P content that users prefer, and that will have a positive impact on your organizational performance, contact Urgo & Associates.