Tips for writing better work instructions

Here are a few simple tips that can ramp up the quality of the engineering work instructions in your mod package . . . .

Begin each step with an action verb. For example:

  • “Route new conduit…”
  • “Pull new cable…”
  • “Mount termination panel…”
  • “Open cubicle door…”
  • “Terminate cables per…”
  • “Label conduit…”
  • “Pull cable into tray number…”

This helps delineate just what exactly each step is trying to accomplish. It makes the task easier to understand. Since planners will use your instructions later down the road to write their detailed work instructions, your simple and clear instructions will make their job easier.

Try to only call out one action per work step. It makes your intent clearer. It reduces confusion. It makes it easier for you to lay out the implementation plan by focusing your mind on the tasks required. One work action per step reduces ambiguity in your meaning because it reduces the chance that you will compose convoluted run-on sentences or sequence actions in illogical order.

Don’t break out work scope by discipline. For example, don’t create an “electrical,” “mechanical,” or an “I&C” section. First of all, everyone has different understandings for what those descriptions mean; what you call “mechanical,” someone else may call “I&C.” Second, dividing the work steps in this way tends to create unnatural and confusing instructions.

In practice, these “discipline-specific” tasks are embedded within one larger task. Extracting them from each other is like trying to extract the yeast from a loaf of bread without mutilating the loaf in the process.