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

Subscribe to
The Policies & Procedures Authority Newsletter

Our Resources

Rapid Documentation of Policies and Procedures—
The Handbook

Book review by Raymond E. Urgo

Juliet M. Kontaxis. 2008. Hackensack, NJ: Benchmark Technologies
International Inc. [ISBN 978-0-578-00524-9. 205 pages, including index.
$30.00 USD (softcover).]

Rapid documentation of policies and procedures is a welcomed addition to the policies and procedures (P&P) bookshelf in that it provides an easy-to-read book with an introductory-level method for developing P&P content rapidly.

Juliet Kontaxis writes in a conversational style suited for novice through mid-level P&P content developers. The book has five chapters and several appendixes which function as a style guide for how Kontaxis presents content for her clients. The book contains a useful index but no bibliographic references to authoritative sources related to its content.

Kontaxis became involved with P&P in 1997 upon accepting a client’s request to develop standardized P&P. She developed her method and book from experiences with P&P projects for her clients, not from the communication professions’ research and principles. Hence, her method is experienced-based rather than research-based, and her book is a practical rather than an authoritative resource.

Kontaxis indicates two challenges her consulting practice faces: time pressures to finish manuals and limited knowledge of the subject matter for the manuals. She then provides her four golden rules for rapid development of manuals. These rules do not address what many communication professionals would expect and consider as the first commandment (rule) of communication: Know thy audience—who are the users and what must the P&P content enable them to perform?

The author’s method for developing and presenting P&P content typifies how many consultants and professionals approach a P&P content development project: primarily focusing on subject matter (not performance needs) and applying formats and styles (not procedure presentation techniques).

The author’s method includes a typical process to P&P content development which she describes in three stages: design, development, and release. Throughout her process she offers excellent advice, steps, guidelines, examples, and rationales that novices are likely to value.

The author’s presentation of P&P content is rooted in the mid-20th century. It uses generic subtitles (Purpose, Responsibility, Procedures, Requirements), topic-subtopic numbering (1.0, 1.1, 1.2), single-column page layout, and sections for exhibits and appendixes in a manual. She astutely recommends using process overviews to organize and introduce procedures. In procedural steps, she mixes imperative and indicative moods—a style serious P&P specialists would debate.

The book is weak in clearly defining process, procedure, and policy. It does not address their variations (guidelines, rules, and requirements) or the need for their supporting information. It does not offer procedure writing techniques beyond the linear procedure (such as for decision procedures); nor does it advise how to write complex steps effectively. While readers won’t be harmed by this method (or the book), they might be left in the dark about additional possibilities for effective and efficient P&P documentation, regardless of how rapidly it’s developed.

The unique value proposition of the method and book may succeed in developing P&P documentation rapidly–a noble need indeed. However, they may be too limited in not offering a more comprehensive set of P&P presentation techniques that are leading-edge, research-based, and more performance-oriented for today’s overwhelmed and demanding P&P information users.

Raymond E. Urgo is an internationally recognized expert, educator, author, and leader in policies and procedures communication. His firm, Urgo & Associates, provides consulting services on the development and management of policies and procedures systems and information in organizations, and it publishes the award-winning e-newsletter The Policies & Procedures Authority.

Copyright 2010, Raymond E. Urgo
Urgo & Associates www.urgoconsulting.com

Published in the Technical Communication Journal (Feb 2010), Society for Technical Communication

Request permission to reprint an article