As the adage goes, there are many moving parts in companies and organizations of all sizes. The difference between productive and successful companies and less successful companies is often whether or not these countless parts move in harmony. This is the difference between a well-tuned machine and a machine that breaks down frequently and eventually fails. For organizations to behave like machines configured not to fall apart, team members must always be on the same page, literally and figuratively. This is where standard procedures or SOPs come into play.
What is an SOP?
SOP is the first thing you pay attention to when automating business processes. IBM simply defines an SOP as a set of guidelines describing all the steps and activities involved in a process or procedure. “Organizations need to know what is required to complete a specific task or function, and the SOPs provide guidance. SOPs are the tasks and actions needed to achieve a policy outcome. The task or related task depends on one person. Each can have one SOP or a group of related SOPs; if you know how to run a set, you can review the steps to determine who should run it.
The process for creating an SOP
The process for creating an SOP varies from organization to organization, so it is essential to find a creative process that suits the specific needs of your team. Use the following tips and techniques to shape your plan. With a complete plan and system, you can trust the system to help your team create effective SOPs. Again, consider the following when you start writing an SOP.
- Read the SOP first to make it easy to understand and use. Otherwise, it may not effectively serve its intended purpose.
- Make POE executable. Your audience needs to know exactly what steps are required to achieve a particular task or goal.
- Create specific and measurable SOPs. It allows you to assess the effectiveness of the process and, if necessary, make adjustments.
Following these three principles of an SOP, you can create an SOP by following these steps:
- Remember Your Ultimate Goal
When you’re ready to write your SOP, start with your goal. Think about the objectives desired with your SOP and all the actions you will need from start to finish to achieve that goal. As a guide, consider using a flowchart or diagram to illustrate an activity to understand all aspects of the process. In this case, provide an overview, scope, and sequence of steps to be followed.
- Ensure ease of use
You need to comprehend each step in the process of striking a balance between depth and ease of use. However, it is crucial to consider which steps can be combined and which steps employees can skip.
- Draft the SOP
After reviewing how to create the SOP and the associated flowchart, you generate the SOP. It may include:
- Title page. Details required include the title, the SOP identification number, the Date of creation or modification, the name of the relevant organization, role, department, or department, and the names and signatures of those who wrote or approved them.
- Relevant steps. This section begins with a short introduction showing what SOPs are and what they do. This introduction is intended to familiarize the user with the SOP, including the SOP area, detailed information required to complete each step of the procedure, ambiguous language descriptions including abbreviations and lesser known terms, and the equipment or tools needed for each step. Additional sections include a table of contents, health and safety warnings, troubleshooting tips, and a glossary for definitions of abbreviations or technical terms.
Successful businesses use the above structure as a template for all SOPs. There are many formatting options, and there is no single style to work with, but you need to make the formatting consistent. It will allow your audience to learn and use your SOP.
Effective SOP tips.
SOPs that can maximize their potential by having the following characteristics:
- Orientation towards processes, not equipment.
As mentioned, SOPs are different from work instructions (WI). Work instructions differ from device to device, but SOP is a process.
Your SOPs should be short, easy-to-read sections that explain how to accomplish specific tasks. If you have too many steps, consider breaking your subtasks into separate SOPs that reference each other. It makes the SOP easier to read and understand.
- Write for your audience.
For an SOP to do its job, it must be relevant, practical, and helpful to your audience. As a result, you create an SOP for your audience.
- Clearly define steps and roles.
SOPs require clear steps to give the reader clear direction. Each step must also consider the role responsible. Clear steps make it clear what actions to take. Assigning each step to the person in charge makes it clear who should be doing the job. It is also essential to define responsible roles to avoid situations where you believe that someone else is responsible for your work. The SOP should always explain the actions to take and who needs to take them.
- Get input from team members and relevant stakeholders.
It would be best if you considered getting feedback from the participating teams. Talk to them before, during, and after writing to get feedback and suggestions.
- SOP test.
After creating an SOP, test it to make sure it is accurate and useful before implementing it. Invite other team members to try it out. It will help you identify problem areas and resolve them before taking action.
- Review the policy and make changes regularly.
Whenever changes are made, the SOP should be updated and regularly checked for clarity and accuracy. Schedule SOP reviews at least every 6-12 months. It allows for identifying and updating obsolete areas with specific, measurable goals and keeping them relevant and useful to those using the SOP.
Establishing standard procedures is probably the best way to help your team maximize their talents. On the other hand, even the most talented professionals cannot be productive and efficient in their roles without proper and transparent leadership.
Even if the new SOP follows absolute best practices, it will not work if the team does not have access to the SOP. Consequently, a central knowledge base is essential for the implementation of new standard operating procedures.
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