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Effective: 12/1/1984

Revised: 9/15/2003

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[ASU logo] CAM 301–02: Four Techniques for Writing Policies and Procedures

Purpose

To describe four techniques for writing policies and procedures

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Source
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Academic and Administrative Documents

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Policy
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Often manual users refer to policies or procedures, looking only for information needed at the moment. To make such information more accessible, it is advisable to separate ideas from straight text using one or more of four writing techniques:

  1. step-by-step listing
  2. playscript
  3. action-condition logic

    and

  4. decision tables.

Do not be afraid to explore all of the techniques. To determine which one is most effective, try at least two of the techniques listed above.


STEP-BY-STEP LISTING

Step-by-step listing is a simple way to make the message visible by listing the main points.

Guidelines for Step-by-Step Listing

Use a phrase or full sentence, ending in a colon, for the introductory statement preceding the list and:

  1. List each step separately. (If you combine steps in a narrative sentence, the user may easily miss a step.)
  2. List the steps in a sequence that is logical to the reader. For procedures, list them in the order in which they would occur.
  3. Use parallel structure throughout the list. For example, if you use a command verb to start the first two items in the list, use a command verb to start all the other items.

    and

  4. Use the active voice for steps that are complete sentences. For example, say, “Department heads may grant employees up to two hours of administrative leave if hardship conditions prevent their voting before or after work hours,” rather than “Employees may be granted up to two hours of administrative leave if hardship conditions prevent their voting before or after work hours.”

Example of Step-by-Step Listing

The following is a before-and-after example, showing how step-by-step listing works and applying most of the guidelines listed above.

Original

Leadership duties of the chair/director include long-range planning for development of degrees and course work in a field of study; encouragement of excellence in each department/division faculty and staff member; maintenance of a productive atmosphere; budget preparation; budget administration, including limitation of expenditures to budget constraints; management of day-to-day operations; and supervision of planning and coordination of program offerings, research, and public service; assignment of faculty loads; planning of library and laboratory facilities; and recruitment and recommendation of persons to fill vacant and new positions.

Rewritten in Step-by-Step Listing

Leadership duties of the chair/director include:

  1. long-range planning for development of degrees and course work in a field of study
  2. encouragement of excellence in each department/division faculty and staff member
  3. maintenance of a productive atmosphere
  4. budget preparation
  5. budget administration, including limitation of expenditures to budget constraints
  6. management of day-to-day operations

    and

  7. supervision of:

    1. long-range planning for development of degrees and course work in a field of study
    2. planning and coordination of program offerings, research, and public service
    3. assignment of faculty loads
    4. planning of library and laboratory facilities

      and

    5. recruitment and recommendation of persons to fill vacant and new positions.


PLAYSCRIPT

Playscript is an excellent method for making a procedure visible and understandable to the reader. It tells who does what and when. It is an effective technique for writing a procedure that involves more than one individual. Ordinarily it is used alone, but it may be used in combination with prose paragraphs.

Playscript divides each action statement into two parts: responsibility and action. To write in playscript, first list and number all the action steps, in chronological order, in the right-hand column. Then name the person or unit with responsibility for the action step in the left-hand column.

Example of Playscript

Original

International students are responsible for arranging insurance coverage, either with ASU or a separate insurance carrier. If a separate carrier is chosen, the International Student Office has to approve it. In that case, the student’s billing statement will show that ASU insurance is not required. If ASU insurance is chosen, the cost will appear on the student’s billing statement.

Rewritten in Playscript

Responsibility
Action
If the insurance policy is offered through ASU:
Registrar
  1. Include the insurance charge on the fall and spring billing statements for international students.
International student
  1. Pay insurance along with tuition and fees.
If the student has an insurance policy that is not offered by ASU:
International student
  1. Take the non-ASU insurance policy and the billing statement to the International Student Office (ISO).
ISO
  1. Check the insurance policy. If it is adequate, stamp the billing statement to show that ASU insurance is not required.

Note:If policy is difficult to interpret by ISO staff, the student will be asked to take the policy to Student Health for review and approval.

Business Services
  1. Process the student’s registration only if the billing statement lists ASU insurance or shows that ASU insurance is not required.

Headings for Playscript Columns

The playscript headings RESPONSIBILITY and ACTION are centered above their respective columns to enhance their visibility. Treat the capitalization and underlining of RESPONSIBILITY and ACTION headings as other headings in the standard format are treated. Follow the instructions for the appropriate heading level (see CAM 402-02, “Visibility of Organization in Policies and Procedures”).


ACTION-CONDITION LOGIC

Action-condition logic is a technique appropriate for writing both policies and procedures containing if-then situations. The action is stated first, then the conditions that must occur for the action to take place.

Example of Action-Condition Logic in a Policy

Contracts may be written for a period of time not to exceed five years if:

  1. the director of Purchasing determines it to be advantageous to the university to do so
  2. funds are not obligated beyond the end of a fiscal year on state-appropriated accounts
  3. funds are not obligated beyond the expiration date of the grant or contract for sponsored program accounts

    and

  4. the contract includes a “funding out” clause or the ability to cancel without penalty at the end of each fiscal year.

Example of Reversing Action-Condition Logic in a Policy

Action-condition logic may be reversed in policies that discuss only one condition at a time. This method is illustrated in the second and fourth paragraphs of the policy following statement.

If not satisfied with that review, the staff member may request another review by the third-level supervisor (i.e., the second-level supervisor’s supervisor) within three working days after the performance evaluation appeal interview.

The third-level supervisor’s decision is final unless unlawful discrimination is alleged to have influenced the evaluation.

If unlawful discrimination is alleged, the staff member may file a complaint with the Office of Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action (EO/AA).

Example of Reversing Action-Condition Logic in a Procedure

When actions in a procedure are attached to a condition, it is often useful to reverse the normal order of action-condition logic and state the condition first. This method is illustrated in steps 5, 6, and 7 in the following playscript procedure.

Responsibility
Action
User
  1. Identify and define the project request.
  1. Prepare the Project Estimate Request form, noting the following:

    1. a description of the service being requested

      and

    2. the name and phone number of the department representative.
  1. Submit the request form to the dean or director for review and approval.
Dean or director
  1. Approve or disapprove the request form.
If not approved:
  1. Indicate “not approved” on the request form and return it to the user’s department.
If approved:
  1. Sign the request form.
  1. Submit the request form to the appropriate vice president for review and approval.



DECISION TABLES

Decision tables use action-condition logic in table form to make complex instructions easier to understand. Decision tables can be used either by themselves or as summaries of the text.

Example of a Decision Table

Original

Faculty and academic professionals must have a valid Social Security number before Human Resources can process the employment forms. If the faculty member or academic professional does not possess a valid Social Security number, the Records Section will request that the faculty member or academic professional immediately apply for one. Also, the Records Section may assign the faculty member or academic professional a temporary Social Security number before processing the employment papers. For faculty or academic professionals who do not possess a Social Security number and are exempt from paying federal and state taxes, the Records Section will process the proper employment forms.

Rewritten in a Decision Table

IFTHEN
Faculty member or academic professional has a valid Social Security numberHuman Resources processes forms for employment
Faculty member or academic professional has no Social Security number and is not exempt from federal and state taxesHuman Resources:

  1. requests that faculty member or academic professional apply for a Social Security number immediately

    and

  2. may assign a temporary number before processing employment forms
Faculty member or academic professional has no Social Security number and is exempt from federal and state taxesHuman Resources processes forms for employment

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Note:Please be advised that the policies and procedures used as examples in the CAM manual are often out of date and no longer applicable. They were chosen as examples when the CAM manual was revised in 1992. To access the current policies and procedures manuals, please go to http://www.asu.edu/aad/manuals.

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