The Write Stuff

An old-fashioned manual typewriter has a piece of paper in its rollers. "Tutorial" is typed on the paper.
Do you know how to write the right stuff? Can you take a complex standard operating procedure and transform it into a user-friendly eLearn? If that notion stresses you out, don’t panic. We are here to help demystify this process. It all boils down to being able to pick out need-to-know information from nice-to-know information.

Need-to-know information 

These steps are crucial to completing a job function. If this step(s) is eliminated the user will be utterly confused or unable to proceed in the standard operating process.

Nice-to-know information

This is a piece of information that is non-essential to the process. It may be explanatory in nature. If removed from a standard operating procedure, the job function the process describes can still be completed.

Every good training module contains both need-to-know and nice-to-know elements. However, no matter how much you love the subject matter, you have to cut down on the amount of material you include. After all, no employee is interested in paging through a 100+ slide course.

Let’s define this a little further within the context of a real example. If I am training a teller how to use Black Knight’s LoanSphere MSP to service a loan, it’s very important to know how to log in to the system and how to search for a specific loan within the application. It’s not very important to know the year that loan servicing became available in the United States.

So how can you channel your inner Marie Kondo and say sayonara to superfluous training details? Try these tricks of the trade.

Narrow the training agenda

If you are feeling overwhelmed by the amount of information you have within your standard operating process steps, let’s dial it back a notch. Make the goal of the eLearn more specific. For example, if my employees work at a manufacturing process and I want them to only allow high-quality products out the door, I might want to focus the training on how to determine if raw materials being received are of a good quality versus an inferior quality. This is a much smaller goal to tackle than training on the everyday life of a shipper/receiver of products. Once the learning objective is clearly defined, it because much easier to identify specific action steps that need to be taken, or in this case to determine the specific actions that need to be taken to verify the quality of a shipment (visual inspection, physical inspection, labeling, transferring, etc.).

Eliminate nice-to-know details

The hardest thing to do as a writer is to get rid of a sentence that we are emotionally attached to and that we have put a lot of thought and effort into. The same is true for process owners. This standard operating procedure is your baby. It’s your pet project and you’re not ready to give it up. However, if you want it to be as effective as possible, you have to learn to let go. Change is hard, but absolutely necessary to deliver a top-notch end product.

Go through your standard operating procedure with a red pen and a highlighter. Highlight the steps that are absolutely necessary to the process. These would be the steps that if you take them out you will be unable to proceed any further. Then grab your highlighter and mark extra information. Finally, make an executive decision to trash the highlighted nice-to-know details. There are some exceptions to the rules. There may be background details that explain the need for the process that you absolutely have to include, but other than setting the stage details, chuck them.

Use a critical eye when reviewing your document to determine which information is worthy of being translated into an eLearning module. Does the point of information explain this specific process? If it starts steering into another process’s territory, remove it, or redirect the learner to a resource that is already established to help them (like an existing training module or reference job aid hosted in your established content management system).

Test the training

Hand the outline of your revised standard operating procedure over to someone who does not know or is new to the process. Get their perspective. Can they navigate through the software application with no feedback from the subject matter expert? Is it user-friendly? Are they confused? At this stage, negative feedback is actually good to have. It can ground and re-direct your attention to an area within a procedure that is unclear.

Or maybe you have already developed the training module. Assign it to an employee who is not a process manager. Then ask them to complete the task. If they can complete the task successfully, the mission is accomplished. If they cannot, it’s time to re-think what information is included within your storyboard. This third-party review is an opportunity for improvement. Is the learner bored? This could be a sign that there is too much of an information dump going on. This problem can be addressed by re-organizing the information or further eliminating extraneous information.

Embrace change

Don’t be afraid of change, embrace it. Every process is an instrument that can be fine-tuned. When developing a standard operating procedure into an eLearn, it’s important to be open to revision and to be audience-centric. Yes, you might have a very real compliance need to document the process the way you have. However, that’s no excuse not to think from the perspective of the employee who will be forced to read your process and experience it as a training module. Keep your audience in mind as you deliberate between whether an information share is nice-to-know or need-to-know. The time you invest in creating a strong process will benefit you in the form of effective employees who know exactly how to do their job and do it well.

Need to hire instructional designers or technical writers? Our team has the “write stuff”! Contact us today to learn how we help clients reach their goals!


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