Want to learn how the KISS concept can be applied to workplace policies and procedures to improve your quality management systems and laboratory practices? Keep reading.
“Yay! More paperwork, how exciting!” Says no one ever.
At least, this is true among the many scientists and laboratory managers I have worked with.
There’s already so much to do between reviewing scientific papers, completing grant applications, writing safety risk assessments, and keeping up with the myriad of administrative work required to keep the laboratory going! (yes, we see you Finance, HR, IT, and Legal teams!)
This leaves very little time to manage the day-to-day operations of the laboratory and get the actual laboratory work done. We’ve all been there, right?
Unfortunately, “more paperwork” is how most policies and procedures are perceived by laboratory staff. They often see it as an evil thing created by people at the top to make their lives miserable. It’s as if they’re deliberately making them drown in documents and do more paperwork.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
When done right, policies and procedures can actually help you work, not hinder it.
That sounds like MAGIC, right? Well, it’s 100% possible.
Today, we will explore the KISS method—an approach that simplifies complex processes and ensures your policies and procedures are practical, easily understandable, and implementable.
But first, what are workplace policies and procedures, and why do they matter?
Policies and procedures are an essential part of the quality management system. They are often used interchangeably within an organisation, but their roles differ.
Policies can be considered the compass that guide your team toward desired behaviours. They ensure a safe, harmonious work environment and align with company values. They serve as a contract that communicates what is expected of team members.
Workplace policies may address safety, data management, quality control, and risk management.
Policies outline the ‘what’ and ‘why,’ provide a strategic direction and guide the organisation’s operations and behaviour.
Procedures, or often referred to as SOPs (Standard Operating Procedure), provide details on how things are done.
These two components support each other to create a robust framework for decision-making, standardise operations, and ensure consistency, productivity, and alignment with the laboratory’s mission, vision, and quality goals.
Some laboratories/ workplaces are part of a bigger organisation, and they have no control over the policies and procedures of the parent company. This article focuses on internal processes that are within your control.
(Photo credit: Tima Miroshnichenko)
Why are procedures/ SOPs important?
Procedures define the steps, equipment, and resources needed to perform tasks correctly and safely. By doing that, they provide many benefits to organisations, such as ensuring quality, consistency, repeatability, and accuracy of scientific processes in a laboratory. Let’s have a closer look at why procedures are crucial and how we benefit from them in the workplace:
Standard procedures reduce variability and errors in laboratories. A laboratory can maintain quality and improve reliability by following established protocols.
Procedures assist the laboratory in meeting regulatory requirements, industry standards, and best practices. Consequently, they reduce the likelihood of nonconformance and non-compliance.
Training and Knowledge Transfer
Well-documented procedures serve as training materials for new employees, facilitating their onboarding and knowledge acquisition. They provide a reference point for staff, ensuring continuity even when experienced personnel are absent.
Risk mitigation is often inherent in procedure development. Risk control measures are added in as steps to reduce risks. This may include safety, quality, and business and operational risks.
Who is responsible for policies and procedures in an organisation?
(Photo credit: Mikhail Nilov)
Organisations need to develop and maintain policies and procedures collaboratively. Each member contributes within their areas of expertise and responsibilities. Key contributors include:
Top managers and directors are responsible for setting the tone, defining organisational policies and allocating resources to implement and maintain these policies effectively.
Personnel responsible for the quality management system (usually quality manager/coordinator) is responsible for establishing quality policies and procedures. They ensure adherence to standards, proper record-keeping and the ongoing review of these documents.
Every scientist, supervisor, and technician plays a crucial role in procedure development, especially those impacting laboratory activities. Their technical knowledge and experience provide valuable input for defining and refining these processes.
Developing workplace policies and procedures using the K.I.S.S. method (step-by-step)
The U.S. Navy originated the K.I.S.S. concept in the 1960s to emphasise simplicity and straightforwardness. Over time, this approach has become widely accepted for developing clear, concise, and easy-to-understand workplace policies and procedures.
Here is a step-by-step guide to applying the KISS method:
1. Identify the Objective:
Clearly define the purpose and objective of the policy or procedure. What problem does it address, and what outcome do you want?
2. Involve the Stakeholders:
Collaborate with relevant stakeholders, including laboratory personnel, quality professionals, and subject matter experts. Their input is invaluable for capturing practical insights and ensuring relevance and feasibility.
3. Simplify the Language:
Use plain and straightforward language, avoiding jargon and technical terms whenever possible.
Break down complex concepts into simple, actionable steps that are easily understandable by the relevant personnel.
4. Focus on Critical Points:
Prioritise your procedure’s most critical steps or information. Highlight what matters most to ensure employees grasp the essential aspects without getting overwhelmed.
5. Incorporate Visual Aids:
Visual aids like flowcharts, diagrams, and images can enhance comprehension and simplify complex processes. Use them strategically to supplement written instructions.
6. Review and Refine:
Regularly review and update your policies and procedures to ensure their effectiveness and alignment with current industry standards and regulatory requirements. Seek feedback from those who impacted by the policies and procedures and make necessary improvements.
How to apply the KISS method to simplify your policies and procedures
Here’s how the KISS method can help simplify your lab’s policies and procedures. In the next section we will explicitly mention procedures but everything can be applied to policies too.
Spotlight the Task:
The first step is to scope out the task that needs to be standardise. It could be anything from using specific lab equipment to handling sensitive biological samples. The endgame here is to truly understand what the procedure aims to achieve, its place in your lab’s workflow, and the sequence of activities needed to complete the task.
Become a Knowledge Sponge:
It’s time to soak up as much information as possible once you’ve figured out the critical steps. Talk to the people who’ll be performing the task or process. Gather intel on the steps, potential hazards, and resources required. This ensures you’re not just making an educated guess but are ready to craft a solid, practical procedure.
Break It Down:
Now you’ve got all the info, it’s time to start writing. Break down the procedure into manageable steps. Be clear and consistent in your choice of words. Here’s the KISS principle – aim for simplicity in language and crystal-clear instructions.
It’s All About Teamwork:
Checking your draft procedure is vital. Who better to help than the people who’ll be using it daily? They can offer helpful insights, spot potential trouble, and suggest improvements. This team-oriented approach ensures the procedure isn’t just good on paper and efficient in real life.
Avoid the Echo Effect:
Say goodbye to unnecessary duplication. If information already exists in another document, refer to it rather than repeat it. Less clutter equals clarity.
Keep It Relevant:
Let’s call this one “future-proofing”. Anticipate any information that may not be ‘evergreen’. For example, don’t mention a particular equipment brand if it is unnecessary, or if you don’t need to include the complete directory link to a folder, then don’t. This will prevent your procedure from becoming outdated unnecessarily due to any minor changes that may occur naturally.
Teach Your Troops:
Once the procedure gets the green light, it’s time to train your team. Give them hands-on experience to ensure they’re fully clued up and confident with the new procedure.
Once your procedure is implemented, it isn’t a one-and-done deal. Keep a close eye on how it’s working, encourage feedback, and make tweaks. As processes, technology, and regulations change, your procedure should too.
Breaking down procedure development into these simple steps makes the task less overwhelming and more productive. Decluttering and standardising your procedures will boost your lab’s efficiency, reduce slip-ups, and ensure consistent results.
Do it right and keep it simple. So, go ahead, give it a go. Your lab will thank you!
If you need further assistance in developing or improving your workplace policies and procedures, SmartQMS can assist. Contact us, and let’s discover how we can simplify your workplace procedures together.
How do you maintain workplace policies and procedures?
As your company grows, its policies and procedures can become more complex with new parts, similar to how a house can have more rooms added over time.
Remember that maintaining simplicity in workplace policies and procedures is more than a one-and-done deal. It’s a constant journey that requires your attention and dedication.
Five tips to ensure that your policies and procedures stay simple and straightforward
Open the Lines of Communication and Keep Learning Alive
Consistently share updates and changes about policies with everyone in your team. But don’t just tell them what’s new. Make sure to arrange training sessions to ensure they truly understand the updated procedures and their responsibilities in enforcing them.
Stay on Top of Document Control
Document control might sound boring, but it’s a lifesaver when it comes to ensuring everyone is on the same page. A solid document control system helps manage policy revisions, control versions, and set access permissions. Your team will always have the most current version on hand.
Foster a Culture of Continuous Improvement
Make sure your lab is a place where new ideas are always welcome. Encourage your team to propose improvements to existing policies and procedures. Remember, the best ideas often come from those on the ground, so remember to routinely review and evaluate your processes for potential enhancements.
Keep an Eye on Performance
Establishing KPIs and metrics allows you to track your policies and procedures’ effectiveness. By analysing this data, you can spot trends, identify areas where the rules aren’t being followed, or find chances for further optimisation.
Keep up with the Times
Regulatory changes and industry best practices can often shift the ground beneath your feet. Keep informed and regularly update your policies and procedures to match the latest requirements.
Keeping your lab’s quality management system practical and straightforward is crucial for your success and growth.
Remember, simplicity doesn’t mean a lack of sophistication. It means making things as clear and efficient as possible so your team can focus on what they do best: making breakthroughs in the lab.
Final thoughts on simplifying workplace policies and procedures
Workplace policies and procedures are the foundation of a well-structured laboratory quality management system. By leveraging the KISS principle, you can simplify their development, implementation, and maintenance, ensuring clarity, consistency, and compliance.
Remember, simplicity and effectiveness go hand in hand.
Embrace the power of streamlined policies and procedures to unlock the full potential of your laboratory and drive continuous improvement.
At SmartQMS, we specialise in providing tailored solutions for quality management in scientific laboratories and medical technology companies. Contact us today for a complimentary consultation to help you optimise your quality management needs.
(Article featured image by RDNE Stock project)