How to Simplify + Standardize Tasks with IPO (Input, Process, Output)

By Jennifer Craig | August 22, 2012

IPO is the perfect way to write tasks so that supervisors can supervise, trainers can train, employees can consistently perform that task the “same” way, and HR Representatives or Owners can easily evaluate jobs for complexity or reclassification.

Instructions for writing tasks:

1. Make a list of each task (daily and periodic);
2. List the steps below each task, and
3. Write each task/step in the IPO format, using action verbs.


1. I = Input, “Where does it come from?”
2. P = Process, “How is it handled?” and
3. O = Output, “Where is it sent once it has been processed?”

For example, when an accounting clerk receives a client’s payment in the mail, the task might be written as follows:

IPO Chart

Often on-the-job trainers use “shortcuts” to train, because they are familiar with the job and don’t recognize the importance of each step. For a new person, this can be deadly, causing problems down the road. This method forces the task writer to think about each step, making it easier to identify when a step or process has been omitted.

About the Author


Jennifer Craig

Jennifer has over 30 years combined experience in business consulting, human resources, training, organizational development, and entertainment. In the past, she had worked for a variety of organizations including NMSU, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, and Universal Studios before joining WESST in 1995. Her BA is in Journalism and Mass Communications, and her graduate work is in Training and Development. She was on the founding Board of the local ASPA (SHRM) group, was named SBA’s Small Business Advocate of the Year in 1997; and has illustrated two books. She enjoys writing and painting.

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