Necessary or Unnecessary Redundancy in Procedures

x-files

Involved In Discussions
#1
Hi,

In every our procedure we have lots of redundant text. There are two specific procedure structure clauses:
* Terms&Definitions and
* Reference documents

In „Terms&Definitions” we over and over again explain what is QMS, IMS, EMS, EHS, OH&S, information, procedure, form, record, aspect, etc, etc, etc, … even when such term are not mentioned in a procedure. Mostly there are just few procedure specific Terms&Definitions.

In “Reference documents” (besides the really procedure needed documents) we always reference the full titles of: PAS 99, ISO 9000, ISO 9001, ISO 9004, ISO 14001, ISO 14004, OHSAS 18001, OHSAS 18002, OHSAS 18001, Manual QMS, Manual EHS, National law 1, National law 2, 3, 4 etc. In almost every case, the procedure never explicitly needs any of the listed documents to be applied itself. All the requirements are already implemented in the procedure.

External auditors (SGS), when they see our lists in Reference documents, few times jokingly said: „We wonder why you also didn’t mention The State Constitution (Low)“, with obvious observation that’s needless.

Internal auditors (and our EX consultants) said that’s necessary for these to be listed in the procedure.

The fact is that these well known items are explained and are explaining during regular trainings about IMS, and are considered as necessary base knowledge in employee contracts and job descriptions.

I myself would exclude these from procedures, and make them as compact is they could be. Furthermore, I could add appendix to “Document control procedure” and list commonly used and prefered “Terms&Definitions”, if it's so necessary.

So what do you think of that, what are you practices?


Best regards,
Vladimir
 
Last edited:
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TPMB4

Quite Involved in Discussions
#2
I've also heard of people using cut and paste quality manuals which virtually copy the first 3 sections of the ISO9001 standard - terms and references, definitions, etc. I have a copy of one partly written for my employer that was done by some guy off his own bat. It struck me that the writers of these don't understand fully what is needed and are perhaps covering their backs by putting everything in it.

Just my observations and opinion. I don't know the answer for your company, but my feelings are that you think these things are not needed and would like to get rid of them as much as possible. Good luck with that as I suspect the bosses like what consultants say and will stick with them even if they are wrong. There will be someone along shortly to give you good advice on this I'm sure.
 

x-files

Involved In Discussions
#3
For now, I use very simple experiment to determine what’s needed for the procedure. I strikethrough a word/sentence/paragraph/item from text and analyze how that affected the integrity of document (for usage and compliance with standards). I also discussed with users about that. They want a procedure to be as much an integral things as it’s possible. But if the procedure lists 50 additional documents that they never saw, or are almost irrelevant for the process, they start considering a procedure as a document like something too generalized or some kind of recommended document not mandatory. Funny, but true. This attitude is promoted by procedures which are created by copy/paste of relevant ISO 9001 sections, with no details.
 

Jim Wynne

Staff member
Admin
#4
Hi,

In every our procedure we have lots of redundant text. There are two specific procedure structure clauses:
* Terms&Definitions and
* Reference documents

In ?Terms&Definitions? we over and over again explain what is QMS, IMS, EMS, EHS, OH&S, information, procedure, form, record, aspect, etc, etc, etc, ? even when such term are not mentioned in a procedure. Mostly there are just few procedure specific Terms&Definitions.

In ?Reference documents? (besides the really procedure needed documents) we always reference the full titles of: PAS 99, ISO 9000, ISO 9001, ISO 9004, ISO 14001, ISO 14004, OHSAS 18001, OHSAS 18002, OHSAS 18001, Manual QMS, Manual EHS, National law 1, National law 2, 3, 4 etc. In almost every case, the procedure never explicitly needs any of the listed documents to be applied itself. All the requirements are already implemented in the procedure.

External auditors (SGS), when they see our lists in Reference documents, few times jokingly said: ?We wonder why you also didn?t mention The State Constitution (Low)?, with obvious observation that?s needless.

Internal auditors (and our EX consultants) said that?s necessary for these to be listed in the procedure.

The fact is that these well known items are explained and are explaining during regular trainings about IMS, and are considered as necessary base knowledge in employee contracts and job descriptions.

I myself would exclude these from procedures, and make them as compact is they could be. Furthermore, I could add appendix to ?Document control procedure? and list commonly used and prefered ?Terms&Definitions?, if it's so necessary.

So what do you think of that, what are you practices?


Best regards,
Vladimir
There are no general rules, but I think it's usually best to have a single QMS glossary, perhaps in the quality manual, but somewhere where it's readily accessible. For abbreviations there should be a general rule that they're spelled out on first use in the text. For example, "...the Environmental Management System (EMS)..." and then use the abbreviation thereafter in the document.

For document references, I think it's best to reference only the documents that are germane, such as forms or work instructions.

The worst offense of procedure writing is usually wordiness, and if words can be eliminated without loss of clarity or meaning, they should be eliminated.
 

x-files

Involved In Discussions
#5
There are no general rules, but I think it's usually best to have a single QMS glossary, perhaps in the quality manual, but somewhere where it's readily accessible. For abbreviations there should be a general rule that they're spelled out on first use in the text. For example, "...the Environmental Management System (EMS)..." and then use the abbreviation thereafter in the document.

For document references, I think it's best to reference only the documents that are germane, such as forms or work instructions.

The worst offense of procedure writing is usually wordiness, and if words can be eliminated without loss of clarity or meaning, they should be eliminated.
Thank you for the the very constructive advices. You've just accented the pure truth: "[...] The worst offense of procedure writing is usually wordiness [...]". Our procedures are now full of useless words, like when a young pupil wants the homework essay to be stretched "on three pages", considering that as the primary goal.
 

somashekar

Staff member
Super Moderator
#6
Thank you for the the very constructive advices. You've just accented the pure truth: "[...] The worst offense of procedure writing is usually wordiness [...]". Our procedures are now full of useless words, like when a young pupil wants the homework essay to be stretched "on three pages", considering that as the primary goal.
An other way you can look at procedures is a 3 column approach.
You have a procedure title on top and below have the 3 columns. The first being the inputs which captures all the necessary inputs which will include also the reference of the very procedure. The second is activity which details in bullet points what specific activity and how it is to be done using the inputs. Pictures where required can also be inserted as visual aids (perhaps in all the 3 columns). The third is the outputs what will capture the activity deliverables and you can also include records requirements, as records form a valid output from an activity.
Try your own procedure as an example to see if this makes sense and can take out the redundancy ...
 
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K

kgott

#7
We are all free to make things as difficult and costly or as easy and as efficient for ourselves as we wish.

If there is a good reason for doing as you do then do it. Did the auditors ever explain why they believed all the references and definitions were necessary?

Be guided by what the relevant standard says eg 9001 etc. While its a bit cryptic all that you need to know about procedures etc is in them.

I have never been able to understand why people abbreviate words then provide definitions of abbreviations. Why abbreviate anyway? I can only conclude that some people consider words to be prohibitively expensive to write or say.
 
F

Frankie11

#8
I am in the process of integrating our qms documentation with our HSE documentation and have found similar redundant text.

I would add to x-files' list 'Responsibilities'. I often find every procedure has the same thing under this heading:
The CEO is responsible for ensuring the quality management system is implemented and maintained.
The [process owner] is responsible for implementing this procedure and reviewing as necessary...
Employees are responsible for understanding and following this procedure..
etc.
 

Jen Kirley

Quality and Auditing Expert
Staff member
Admin
#9
I am in the process of integrating our qms documentation with our HSE documentation and have found similar redundant text.

I would add to x-files' list 'Responsibilities'. I often find every procedure has the same thing under this heading:
The CEO is responsible for ensuring the quality management system is implemented and maintained.
The [process owner] is responsible for implementing this procedure and reviewing as necessary...
Employees are responsible for understanding and following this procedure..
etc.
Listing the CEO would generally be appropriate for the process in which the CEO has inputs. Management review comes to mind, and the quality manual also. But every procedure? No. A single organizational chart can accomplish as much.

As for definitions, I would try to provide a very easily accessible guide for users, in the QA manual as Jim said or maybe on an intranet page or even a poster. In a given procedure I would list definitions for the acronyms the procedure lists in its process steps and/or appendixes/attachments. Try to keep it simple.
 

somashekar

Staff member
Super Moderator
#10
Adding a line for responsibility in the procedures is not uncommon.
My take here is that the responsible person has to be the user of that document and not that he has to know about his responsibility from that document.
Responsibility and authority are defined and communicated at personnel level and training level before coming to operational level where procedures become useful.
 
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