Standard operating procedure or SOP plays an important role in the business that improves working efficiency. This article tells you how to create an SOP with ease.
What is a Standard Operating Procedure
No matter whether you are starting a business or simply improving an old one, it is necessary to know how you are going to get all the things done. You will have to know what has to be done, who is going to do it, and the best approach to it. This is the first step to systemize the business. The creation and the workflow are going to define how the daily activities function. One of the best approaches to this is the standard operating procedure.
It is actually a set of instructions which describes the relevant activities and steps of a procedure. In simple words, it is a documentation of the whole process.
Standard Operating Procedure VS Work Instructions
The procedure means a process. On the other hand, work instructions represent how you can perform a conversion. The process will include the inputs, outputs, and the feedbacks required for ensuring a consistent result.
A procedure is mainly a way to carry out a particular activity. While an instruction provides a detailed direction regarding how you have to perform a specific task, both of these may or may not be documented. In case the tasks and the activities are being carried out by promising professionals, written instructions and procedures might not be required.
The confusion between the two intensified when an organization refers to it by their names. For instance, the procedure can be referred to as a plan and an instruction can be called guidance or directions.
The best way to distinguish between SOP procedure and instructions is to look at the detailing. The method of procedure is going to be described as what is done and the instructions are going to show how it is actually done. A system has several processed and each of it comprises of different activities. Each activity is going to be divided into tasks.
If a quality manual shows policies across the whole system, there are multiple linked processes in it. Each one of them is defined and documented. In case an activity within the procedure requires an explanation regarding how the task is going to be performed, instructions will have to be written.
The standard operating procedure is a specific method to carry out an activity by making a process. However, an instruction is a series of steps for performing a task that makes an activity. Multiple people might be involved in carrying out a procedure and it is their title that shows their role. Instruction is just action-oriented verbs for instructing or directing someone to perform a task.
Why do You Need Standard Operating Procedure?
SOPs help an organization to develop consistency in how tasks and processes are performed. It consists of a step-by-step procedure which is easy for the employees to follow.
Here are some of the reasons to incorporate it into your organization.
Ascertain Standardized Process and Consistency
It provides your organization with the required consistency and makes sure that the tasks which are helping the organization to run are done in the desired manner. With SOPs it is easier to find out the procedures and policies that are being used for handling repetitive business tasks and outcomes. When there is a standard routine, the employees will enjoy better predictability in the work environment. It can also help in improving their skill for every task and increase their confidence.
It defines the policies of an organization while it outlines the steps needed to respond to a particular situation which has been mentioned in the policy. It serves as your reference guide and tells you how you need to perform an important function. This is particularly important in regards to the turnover, general HR movement, and promotions. It reduces risk by making sure that employee information is transferred when the resources are lost or reallocated. It is a basic guide serving as the training materials.
Delegates Tasks and Ascertains Business Continuity
In case a prime member of the organization is not available, work doesn't have to stop. Simply by referring to a standard operating procedure, someone can take over the important task. Every good procedure will have an organization chart and a small job description along with the contact details of the staff members. In case you have to delegate a particular task, check at glance to find out who can advise you or help you out.
Improves Performance Management
If you do not have proper documentation, you will not be able to hold employees accountable for process and tasks. Without a standard operating procedure, job performance tends to become a matter of opinion. With the help of this, managers will be able to identify the success of the employee and also communicate what he is lacking during the annual reviews.
How to Create a Standard Operating Procedure?
Before you start with the steps of how to write an SOP, you need to have an idea about what the document should include:
- Title page consisting of the process name and the department name.
- Table of contents when the document is long.
- Scope as some processed might include various teams and departments.
- Terminology to define complicated terms.
- The procedures for the documentation of the process.
- Supplementary information which can be about anything in regards to the process.
- Metrics for measuring the efficiency of the process.
Here is how you can do an SOP in the right manner without using a standard operating procedure template.
1. Assemble the Team
Prior to starting with the process of documentation, it is necessary to gather the necessary information. It is quite likely that you aren't the one who handles the process regularly. You might have a good idea about what the process involves but you might know about the small details which can have a significant effect on the outcome. Thus, if you have to get the process right, it is better to get in touch with the employees who handle it on a regular basis. Call the employees and set up a meeting. You can ask them to take you through the entire process gradually and explain every detail to you.
2. Define Scope
At times, the processes might be interconnected. It might spread on to different department and teams. In case you start to document without scope definition, the result might be complicated and long. Let's take a look at standard operating procedure examples to publish content.
- A writer develops the draft for the blog.
- The editor reviews and offers feedback.
- The procedure is looped until the piece is ready for publishing.
- The editor uploads and optimizes for SEO.
- The marketing department secures contact information for all back-link outreach.
- The marketing department sends out emails for the outreach.
The process might be divided into two parts depending on SOPs purpose. The marketing team doesn't have to know what the writing team does and vice versa. In case you are hiring someone new in the writing team, they just have to know the first and the fourth step. Thus, you can limit the scope on the basis of which department you require the SOP for.
3. Document the Procedure
This is the primary work when it comes to writing SOP. The first thing that you need to do is use a checklist. Write down the tasks that have to be completed to make the process successful. Thereafter, you can keep it in the office or print it out for the employees. In case there are different events and outcomes, you can fit it into a workflow diagram. You can use Edraw for this.
4. List of Relevant Details
In the majority of the cases, a workflow chart is just not enough to provide all the required information regarding how to carry out the procedure. It is necessary to list out details that are important for finishing the process. It might be methodology, the required tools, and safety and health warnings.
5. Defining Metrics and Updating SOP
When you have the SOP, start with the implementation process. You might realize that you can make improvements to it. Define the metrics as it makes it easier to improve something. Thereafter, you can improve the process by streamlining, automation, and outsourcing.
Now you know everything about how you can make a standard operating procedure. However, you are not done, yet. You have to implement it. This means that it has to be accessible to the employees. The best thing that you can do is make it available online. You can use a process management software or a file-sharing software for this purpose. Once done, all your employees are going to have access to this SOP.
In case you are old-fashioned, you can simply print out the document and then distribute it in the office. Make sure that you keep some extra copies handy. You might need them when someone loses theirs or you need one for an emergency.
By using SOP in your daily business, you are actually putting provisions in place to handle poor process which might slow down the company.
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