Complete, yet concise, procedures aid the folks using those procedures by helping them accomplish the task successfully the first time.
Folks who are trying to follow procedures are typically looking for a way to do things or following a documented process to ensure that all steps are followed in sequence and without missing steps. Keeping those things in mind, these perspectives help make that better:
Use this simple and yet effective procedure layout.
In a single sentence, explain to the reader what this procedure will accomplish.
This section facilitates the concept of "fail fast": the faster that the reader can determine that this procedure is the wrong procedure, the more quickly they can find the proper procedure.
This is the first of the two sections of prerequisites.
List the things that you need to actually have in order to perform the procedure successfully. The typical categories of things that go here are:
This second sections of prerequisites contains the caveats--the "gotchas" that need to be known before doing the procedure.
List the topics and skills that the person running the procedure needs to know in order to run it successfully and avoid potential issues, such as:
Now that you have given the reader the preliminary information, this is where you give them the step-by-step items of the procedure. Writing a good procedure follows a concept of functional decomposition. A key point is to keep the instructions at any level consistent with the other instructions at the same level.
As you can tell by the content references above, this best practice was developed in the software support business. Writing operational information technology (IT) procedures has worked this way across multiple groups at multiple organizations, both in the private and public sector, for more than 17 years.