Joe Harless would approve

I found an image sent to me by my friend and colleague, John Howe. It’s the package for a cortisone prescription. He sent it because he knows what a proponent of job aids I am.

Joe Harless’s Job Aid WorkShop years ago transformed my career.  I learned that even when you have a skill-and-knowledge gap, often you can address that in ways other than trying to cram everything into someone’s head.
A job aid stores information about what to do and how to do it, in a place other than long-term memory.

So this package is a job aid for the task of taking your prescription:

The package for a prescription drug

I might have tinkered with the design a bit (for example, indenting each day’s directions relative to the label for that day), but see how effectively the package manages to:

  • Tell you what to do, and when to do it.
    • You know which pills are for which day.
    • Each day’s dose is specific — e.g., “take 1 tablet before breakfast and 1 tablet after lunch, after supper and at bedtime.”
    • “To remove tablet, press from this side.”
  • Avoid ambiguity while explaining options.
    • The text begins with the important caveat, “unless otherwise directed by your physician…”
    • “All six tablets in the row labeled 1st day should be taken the day you receive your prescription, even though you may not receive it until late in the day.”
    • “All six tablets may be taken as a single dose…”
    • “…or may be divided into two or three doses and taken at intervals…”
  • Avoid explaining why. *

* Why avoid “why?”

The task here is: take the prescription appropriately. Assuming this is your prescription and that the diagnosis is correct, you’ve got everything you need to complete the course of treatment (other than the meals, but you’d probably have those anyway).

Questions like “Why this medication?” or “Why this dosage?” are part of choosing a treatment, not taking the treatment. To make the initial choice, you might combine a how-to-decide job aid and discussions with a physician or pharmacist.

A well-designed job aid is more reliable than memory, requires less time to develop, and minimizes the need for experience or recall. It’s also easier to change than more fixed forms of training.

Most important, it focuses attention on what the performer should do.