Work instructions are also called work guides, Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), job aids or user manuals, depending on the situation. In any case, the purpose of work instructions is to clearly explain how a particular work task is performed. They’re like the step-by-step instructions we receive when we learn to drive a car: check gear stick is in neutral, start ignition, press clutch, change to first gear and so forth.

What’s important is that work instructions should not be confused with processes or process maps. Let’s quickly look at where work instructions fit into our overall process documentation levels:


They reduce risk because the safest way of doing a job is clear and known by the people that matter.

Avoid errors and “the blame game”

Clarity avoid errors. Crucially, this avoids the blame game. When things go wrong the tendency is to blame or hold people responsible, which is natural. But if this happens often it can have an impact on staff morale. Having clear work instructions minimises this problem.

Save time

The chart below shows Gluu’s own research on the Return on Investment when writing work instructions. The point is that your initial investment in time is paid back once your work instruction has been used just three times. This only refers to time-saving – we haven’t even mentioned the value of avoiding errors and rework. This is also referred to as “Standard Work” within Lean:


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