Many operations leaders make the costly mistake of underestimating the importance of developing standard operating procedures (SOPs.) And it’s easy to see why.
With tons of moving parts, it can be tempting to push the creation of SOPs to another day. But the reality is that without an SOP, your operation will be flying blind. Possibilities are that you will witness inefficiencies, brand inconsistency, a drop in revenue, and poor workflows.
What Is A Standard Operating Procedure?
An SOP is a document that elaborates how teams and members within your company should go about completing specific processes. In other words, it’s a set of clear, written directions on how your employees complete complex or routine tasks.
Why Businesses Need SOPs
The Operating "Recipe"
With an SOP, adherence to best practices will not be optional but mandatory. This is because the document provides a recipe for your operations and clear guidelines for employees to get there.
An SOP helps your team identify the most efficient and effective ways to accomplish tasks without compromising quality. And as a result, your company will experience expected results regardless of who is doing it.
Promote Reliable And Consistent Results
Developing an SOP helps your company run seamlessly like a fine-tuned machine. And that means brand consistency across all your branches or stores is guaranteed. The document ensures your employees will always know and follow the right path to achieve your business objectives.
Maintain Knowledge And Expertise Within Your Company
Developing an SOP may seem like a waste of time when all your team members know what to do. However, your employees will not work with you forever. At some point, they will retire, quit, go on leave, or get promoted. When that occurs, it pays to keep the knowledge and expertise gained within your company.
With an SOP, you’ll ensure this knowledge is enterprise knowledge rather than personal knowledge. It will help new members to pick up from where former employees left. It will also help close the skills gap for employees still mastering the “ropes”
Find Gaps and Stop Reinventing the Wheel
Running a business without a standard operating procedure makes it difficult to improve your processes. But when you have well-documented procedures, you can quickly identify gaps. When an unforeseen situation occurs, it is best practice to document the right way to do it so that staff does not have to “reinvent the wheel” each time.
Now that you know its benefits, let’s look at developing a standard operating procedure for your business.
5 Tips To Develop A Standard Operating Procedure
1. Be Concise
A standard operating procedure should be short segments that describe how to accomplish a specific task. If you have too many steps, split them into separate SOPs that reference each other. This will help you develop easy-to-read and understand SOPs.
2. Write For Your Audience
For SOPs to be useful, they must be relevant and usable to the targeted audience. So as you create an SOP for your company, keep the following factors in mind:
- Prior knowledge
- Industry-specific knowledge
- Type of audience (e.g new or current employees.)
3. Define Steps And Roles Clearly
An effective SOP provides clear direction to the reader. Every actionable step should make it clear what needs to be done and who should do it. This will help avoid circumstances where employees think someone else is responsible for a task.
(If you are using checklists in your SOP, please see our post “The Power of Checklists in Operations“.)
4. Ask For Input
Seeking input from various stakeholders when developing an SOP is crucial. After all, these are the people who will be adhering to the SOP. So, make sure to include all tasks and that the SOP makes sense to them.
5. Leverage Technology
Your SOP might be well written; however, it’s only effective if it reaches your audience. A mobile-based digital platform can serve as an SOP app.
A digital platform is the perfect distribution method to reach today’s employees because:
- SOPs can be built-in user-friendly formats such as digital checklists.
- A mobile-friendly app can reach everyone in your company in real-time.
- Managers can get valuable feedback and input from employees using the SOPs.
Documenting the procedures that power your business through SOPs will help streamline your operations, make them replicable, and grow your business.