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

Subscribe to
The Policies & Procedures Authority Newsletter

Our Resources

Writing Exceptional Policies and Procedures

Book review by Raymond E. Urgo

Stephen B. Page. 2009. Westerville, OH: Process Improvement Publishing.
[ISBN 978-1-929065-035. 346 pages. $39.95 USD (PDF).]

Stephen Page’s Writing Exceptional Policies and Procedures, available as a portable document format (PDF) file, is very similar in subject coverage and writing style to his four published books in print on policies and procedures (P&P). Compared to books by other authors on the subject, this book has the most comprehensive coverage about issues concerning P&P in organizations and the application of allied disciplines that support developing and implementing P&P in organizations.

The book’s scope far exceeds the content promised by its title. Most of the book is not about “writing P&P.” It is about the role, development, and implementation of P&P in organizations–in concept and in practice, including writing. In addition to writing (verbiage, grammar, format, and style), Page addresses such subjects as researching for topic coverage, building team consensus for effective practices, designing and managing forms associated with P&P, distributing and maintaining P&P documents, implementing P&P through a communications plan and training, and improving and measuring P&P for effectiveness.

As for “writing” P&P, this book is most useful for those seeking to write P&P content in documents according to a traditional and commonly used approach having its roots in the mid-20th century. I refer to this as an extrinsic approach, whereby the writer provides content in each document with pre-established, standard sections having generic headings (such as Purpose, Scope, Responsibilities, Procedure, and more) and with a numerical outline (1.0, 2.0, 2.1, 2.2, and so on). This combination of format and style resembles a legal document, such as an apartment lease, where the document’s content is designed for reading sequentially and for remaining unchanged. In contrast, P&P writers using an intrinsic approach design and develop content as objects in topics (not necessarily documents) and subtopics based on users’ needs, not a standard structure. This approach uses generic and non-generic subtopic headings without a numerical outline. This format and style meet the late 20th-century’s needs for maximizing the use of online communication, as with hypertext, and enabling the content to be reused, easily changed, and read non-sequentially.

Page writes in a conversational style and tells his experiences with the application of a variety of disciplines allied to P&P. A stronger edit would make the subject coverage less redundant and more concise in parts of the book. Given the diverse subject coverage in 346 pages, a glossary and an index would contribute to the book’s value and usefulness.

In short, this book is ideal for those preferring a PDF file with subject coverage primarily derived from the author’s four printed books plus new information. It is also ideal for learning issues and applying techniques from other disciplines to better develop, manage, and implement P&P content and organizational practices. Lastly, this book is ideal for those seeking to apply traditional styles and formats for writing P&P documents.

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 2009, Raymond E. Urgo
Urgo & Associates www.urgoconsulting.com

Published in the Technical Communication Journal (Nov 2009),
Society for Technical Communication

Request permission to reprint an article