STEP BY STEP GUIDE: HOW TO WRITE A STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE
Let’s talk about Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s)...This could be a personal favorite of mine! I would put them right up there next to using an excel spreadsheet, ‘an oldie but a goodie’!
There are standards in every industry but there are also best practices for your business specifically.
SOPs, IMO, are the “bible” of an operation. They are the documents that guide the business and its employees on how to do things, how to do them correctly, and how to do them according to your business.
SOPs and good documentation are extremely useful and important in a business because they:
Create consistency in your business, ensuring each person handling the business does it the exact same way.
Provide training material and documentation so, as noted above, everyone is trained the same way to provide the same service
Capture knowledge. When first building a business, new departments or procedures, an SOP allows you to write down all the ‘hows’ and ‘why’s’ you are doing business in this manner. Once you capture this knowledge it can be transferred to future versions of the business and employees.
Define measurable goals. An SOP is also a great tool to identify what is most important to measure.
Become Assets. When you write down this knowledge, you are creating a written asset of the company.
Here’s your step by step guide on HOW to create your own SOP’s and some key things to keep in mind when creating them.
1. Define goal of the SOP
There are two really good reasons to have SOPs: the proverbial beer truck and to operate like a franchise.
Accountability, Training, Source of Truth
2. Keep consistent Formatting
In order to not only appear professional, but to make sure your SOPs contain all the relevant information, we suggest a template to include the following
Steps in your process
Measurables and Reporting
Owner and date of creation
3. Consider your source
The person writing your SOP is critical to the success of SOP. They should be skilled and well versed in the process they are writing the SOP for. They should be considered the business owner/expert and able to articulate clearly the steps. Additionally, they should be available to answer questions and accept feedback for the processes.
4. Why, not just how
Explaining WHY a process is the way it is can be just as important as HOW to do something. People want to understand the motive and reason so they can get behind a process. Be sure to include the WHY in your overview of the SOP
5. Reference Materials
Visual aides and reference materials are invaluable in an SOP. We suggest screen shots, photos, and even video when available.
6. Test the Process and Measure Results
When you write an SOP we also suggest you map out your process first. Have a peer test the process based on the steps you outline. Establish clear results and reporting that would be critical to your SOP and process.
7. Draft and Review
An SOP should not be written in a silo. Collaborate when you test the process, share with a colleague that is not in your department for a fresh set of eyes and then review the results.
8. Approval and Rollout
Once the SOP is written, be sure to get your superiors involved for final approval. Then establish a protocol for rolling out the SOP. How will this be delivered and trained to employees and team members that will be implementing these procedures? Be sure to provide plenty of time for acceptance and compliance of the procedures
9. Storage and Updating SOPs
We recommend that each department have one place to store all SOPs and a standard naming convention to store SOPs digitally. Ex: Department Name, SOP Title, Version/Date
As new information is available and procedures change, the SOP should be updated.
Having one admin “own” all the SOPs and digital filing has proven to work in many businesses.
10. Adherence to SOPs
Once you have rolled out an SOP be sure to reference it regularly. For many managers this SOP can be used repeatedly for training purposes and to hold team members accountable. Hot tip: rotate SOP reviews quarterly so SOPs are maintained and up to date and all employees are following procedures