By February 2, 2012 0 Comments Read More →

Are Your Instructions Confusing?

Are Your Instructions Confusing?

Managers are responsible for instructions for all types of processes, whether for their own operaitons or for their products or services. It's usually important that whoever is reading them can follow them easily and accurately.

Sometimes failure to follow instructions will be dangerous, sometimes it can be embarasing. It may result in an expensive call to your company's Customer Service line along with dissatisfaction with your product. Sometimes it's the customer's fault, but in any case, it's up to whoever wrote the instructions to get them right in the first place - accurate and easy to follow.

The microwave instructions above are simple and they are even partially illustrated, so it would seem they meet some of the key criteria.
Unfortunately, there is a glaring error that makes it more likely that someone won't follow the instructions properly.

The reality is that most people read instructions sequentially and perform them step by step rather than reading them fully and then starting the steps. Most of us are probably familiar with this issue when following cooking instruction and some key parts of the instructions are further below, well after we've already screwed up the recipe.
So, the problem with this instruction is simple, but shouldn't have happened. The manager responsible shouldn't have let it happen.

By now, you probably realize that Step 2 tells you to cook for 4 1/2 to 5 minutes. So, if the customer sticks it in the microwve and sets the timer for 5 minutes, they will have missed an important step - stirring it after 2 1/2 minutes minutes, not after the initial 5 minutes.

It's truly a simple thing, but those are the kinds of things we should get right. It should have said:

  • Step 1 - Pierce
  • Step 2 - Cook for 2 to 2 1/2 minutes
  • Step 3 - Stir and Cook an additional 2 1/2 minutes.
  • Let Stand 2 Minutes


Space may have been an issue on the packaging, but it shouldn't trump properly written instructions.

Next time you write instructions or have your staff do it for you, be sure to sit back and follow the steps sequentially yourself - walk through it and double check that they make sense before you print it on mass produced packaging or give it to your staff to follow.

About Michel Theriault

Michel is the founder of Success Fuel for Managers. He is an author, speaker and consultant focusing on topics relevant to Managers and aspiring Managers in businesses of all sizes who want to get results, get attention, and get ahead. He is also a contributor to Forbes and AllBusiness Experts . Michel is available for speaking engagements, training and consulting. Connect with him or send an email.

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