" It can be challenging to maintain consistency in any workplace. One way to help ensure consistency is to create SOPs or standard operating proceduress."
If there’s one thing consistent among all the struggling businesses I have talked to, it’s that they have no idea what an SOP is. Some may have a clue of what an SOP is, but they don’t have anything implemented for their company. An SOP may look like any other regular document that seems unnecessary, but if you want your businesses to be able to scale and succeed, then you need to have SOPs. In this article, we’ll discuss everything about SOPs. From its definition to best practices when implementing and creating SOPs for your business.
An SOP or Standard Operating Procedure refers to a set of written, step-by-step instructions on how to do specific processes. In the most straightforward sense, an SOP is a how-to document that anybody can pick up and read in order to know what to do.
Implementing SOPs in any organization will result in a ton of benefits. In theory, having SOPs makes learning routine activities faster. Not only that, it creates consistency in the output as people do precisely the same steps every time. But before we talk all about the good things SOPs can bring to your business, let’s talk about what an SOP should look like.
One of the many mistakes some organizations make is that they think any document with a list of instructions is an SOP. While the step-by-step instructions are central in any SOP, they should have more than that. Let’s look at each part of an SOP.
The title should be clear and straightforward. The title will tell you what the SOP is all about. The title should tell the reader what issue it solves. For example, it’s better to name an SOP “How To Connect Facebook Page to Buffer” than “Connecting Facebook to Social Media Tools.”
In order to reduce confusion, make sure you tag the SOPs properly or put the suitable department IDs. SOPs for the web development team usually get searched by the web development team. Adding the proper tags makes it easier for people to search for the exact SOP they are looking for, as some processes, while similar to an extent, are done by different departments. Thus, they need two separate SOPs.
This part will explain what the SOP is for and the expected outcome. You can be as descriptive as possible in this part, as your goal is to help the person reading the SOP figure out if they did everything right.
SOPs might contain a few jargon and industry (or department) specific terminologies, so defining them will be necessary. In creating definitions, you should consider people who might not be familiar with the words but will still need to follow the SOP.
This is the “meat” of the SOP. The step-by-step instructions should have all the necessary details needed in order to perform the process. The best SOPs offer instructions in various formats - in text, screenshots, and videos. Remember that different people within your organization will prefer one type of content over the other. So the more options, the better.
Now that we have a good idea of what an SOP and its parts are, the next logical question would be, “How does one create SOPs for their business?”
Let me preface the answer by saying this, creating SOPs is and always will be a challenge for every organization. However, it is definitely worth making. Let’s find out what you need to do to start creating SOPs for your business.
Step 1: Identify and list processes that need SOPs
The first real step in creating SOPs is listing down the routines or processes you have in your business that needs an SOP. In theory, every process that happens within the company should have an SOP, so it can get a bit overwhelming. One good tip is to organize each process based on how big of an impact they have on the day-to-day operations. Those who are higher on the list should be made into an SOP first, with the less important ones focused later on.
Step 2: Plan out the process of creating and managing your SOPs
After you have a list, the next step is to create a solid plan on how you will create and manage your SOPs. This is where you will think of a format for the SOPs and how you will store them. Creating a structure or template will make the SOP creation process more accessible and ensure that all SOPs created by your team are uniform. As for storing and organizing the SOPs, the most logical way to keep SOPs nowadays is online - so people can access them anytime.
Step 3: Collect necessary information on what your SOPs will be
So you have a format, and you now have a place where you will store your SOPs; the next step is to ensure the people creating the SOPs will have the necessary information to make them. You can eliminate any issues in this step by allowing specific departments to make SOPs for their own teams. This ensures that the people making SOPs actually know how to do it.
Step 4: Start writing the SOPs.
As soon as you have the format and have the right people who can do the SOPs, the next step is to start writing them. The first few SOPs might need to be workshopped a little bit to ensure people know exactly what is expected of them, but once they get the hang of it, you can let teams create SOPs at their discretion.
Step 5: Maintain your SOPs
After writing the SOPs, the next thing you have to think about is how you are going to store and maintain your SOPs. In theory, maintaining SOPs should be on an “as needed” basis as some processes rarely change. However, for operations that change frequently, you need to have an assigned point person to adjust the SOPs, so it doesn’t get confusing.
So your business is working just fine without having SOPs. Lucky you, right? This doesn’t mean you don’t need to create SOPs. In fact, you must create SOPs as soon as you can.
But sure, let’s try to talk about when you should create your SOPs. Let’s list down the things that can trigger your need for SOPs in your business.
There are a lot of reasons why your business needs SOPs. We’ve narrowed it down to three for the sake of discussion.
It can be challenging to maintain consistency in any workplace. Whether it's following procedures or meeting deadlines, employees can sometimes struggle to stay on track. This can be frustrating for both managers and coworkers, and it can eventually lead to problems with productivity. One way to help ensure consistency is to create SOPs or standard operating procedures. By outlining the steps that need to be taken for various tasks, SOPs make it easier for employees to understand what needs to be done and how it should be done. As a result, they are less likely to make mistakes or deviate from the desired outcome.
Having standard operating procedures (SOPs) in place can help reduce employee mistakes in your business. SOPs provide a clear and consistent set of instructions for performing tasks, which can help to remove ambiguity and prevent errors. When employees know the specific steps they need to take to complete a task, they are less likely to make mistakes.
Well-written SOPs can also help to improve communication within your business, as they provide a common reference point for employees to consult when they have questions. In addition, SOPs can help to streamline your operations by eliminating outdated or inefficient methods. By taking the time to create SOPs for your business, you can help to create a more efficient and error-free workplace.
Well-written standard operating procedures (SOPs) help employees understand what they need to do to accurately, efficiently, and safely complete their tasks. SOPs can improve communication by providing employees with a common language and clear expectations.
In addition, SOPs can help to reduce confusion and disputes by spelling out exactly what needs to be done in each situation. SOPs can also help new employees learn their roles more quickly and provide a valuable reference for experienced employees when questions arise. By creating SOPs, businesses can enjoy smoother operations and improved communication among their employees.
When creating SOPs, it is essential to keep the following in mind:
SOPs can be an invaluable tool for businesses of all sizes. By taking the time to create SOPs, businesses can enjoy improved communication, efficiency, and consistency. When creating SOPs, keeping the above best practices in mind is crucial. Doing so will help to ensure that your SOPs are practical and user-friendly.
Jamie Stenhouse is an internationally renowned consultant exclusively serving fellow business owners.
After running and selling multiple businesses, he is now the creator of the "Dream Team Intensive" – a unique methodology that helps owners to hyper-systemise their business and build their Dream Team.