If you are looking to build a Standard Operating Procedure you may be wondering what they typically look like or how others may do it.
Really – there is no set rule to creating an SOP. (Standard Operating Procedure). There might be tons of information online about this, however think about it practically.
You need something done and how do you document this process?
Firstly – What is an SOP?
OK, I think we have established that an SOP is a Standard Operating Procedure. This is a great description below.
A standard operating procedure (SOP) is a set of step-by-step instructions compiled by an organization to help workers carry out complex routine operations. SOPs aim to achieve efficiency, quality output and uniformity of performance, while reducing miscommunication and failure to comply with industry regulations.
SOP Example and What it Looks Like
So, really the main point seems to be that it is a step by step procedure. However, the important aspect of creating an SOP is how it is communicated through text, pictures or whatever way you choose to communicate it.
Below is a very basic example of a SOP. This is just to demonstrate that there is nothing overly complicated about an operating procedure.
The simple example we will use below is:
How to Change a Flat Tyre on a Car
Steps to be followed.
1: Make sure the park brake is on
2: Open the boot
3: Get the spare wheel out
4: Get the jack and wrench out to loosen the wheel nuts
5: Position the jack in the correct spot
6: Loosen the wheel nuts
7: Jack up the car
8: Remove the wheel nuts and wheel
9: Install the spare wheel
10: Tighten the Wheel nuts
11: Lower the jack
12: Check the wheel nuts are tight
13. Put the jack and flat tire in the boor
14: Close the boot…
You can see from above that this example is very simple. However, it outlines exactly what is required to perform the task successfully.
It can become more complicated depending on the task. However, the simple example above identifies the process and outlines it step by step.
Make it too complicated and no one will read it or use it. The key is to keep it simple so people engage with it and actually use the process.
Keep it Simple
The best thing you can do about creating SOP’s is to keep them simple and straight forward. If it is a complex task you are documenting, you will need to break it down into smaller tasks.
Something that is very complex can still be completed using standard operating procedures. The combination of training and using procedures allows people to deliver complex tasks correctly, accurately and efficiently.
Complicated Tasks Require a Lot of Work
If you are a complex business and delivering complex services or products, then obviously your SOP’s are going to be long and detailed.
They will be broken into tiny tasks which when combined a step by step procedure on how to complete the task. This combined with regular training achieves the goal set of delivering the complicated tasks or product.
Your business may even need to break a task across teams of people if it is a complex task. This becomes even more detailed as teams work together for a common goal and achieve an end result accurately.
Creating Complex Products with SOP’s
To build a complex product or deliver a complex service, the first thing you need to do systematically divide it into its individual pieces. This means looking at the products each piece separately or in the case of a service, each task separately.
This is known as modular design and development. Documenting the pieces and the process or assembly is a SOP or Standard Operating Procedure. Once you document each piece and how each piece fits together you have created procedures on how to construct a complex product.
Another SOP Example
Below is another SOP example. This one however has images as well as text. This enables people to understand the procedure quicker and use visual cues to understand the process required.
Obviously, if you are going to document all your procedures in this manner, it will take a significant amount of work. Check it out below.
OK, this is a fairly simple task to complete. If you had a much more complex task, then obviously you will have pages and pages of instruction.
Another Written SOP Example
Let’s take a look at yet another example without pictures. You can see this is a bit harder to grasp quickly. However the red text does highlt to the reader the important parts of the task.
Check it out below.
Lots of text makes the procedure harder to follow quickly. However, you may need lots of text in some situations.
The key is to communicate the required tasks effectively so the task gets completed accurately. There is no point in having the SOP if the task gets completed incorrectly each time.
Train your team to provide feedback to you on building your procedures so you can ensure your procedures are clear and usable. This makes people’s jobs and role easier and more effective.
How to Write an SOP
So how do you go about writing an SOP for your business?
Firstly, think about how you are going to use the SOP in your business.
Is it for people behind the computer or people on the factory floor or people working from home?
Secondly, how will they read the procedure? Will they read it online or do they need access to a hard copy? Will they be able to use it on their phone? Think about the practicalities of how it is actually used.
No one is going to follow the procedure if it is not:
- Easy to Follow
- Makes Sense
- Using Simple Language
There are many ways to ensure your team actually want to use the procedure. Forcing them is not the best way to make the SOP’s effective. Using common sense is.
Thirdly and most importantly. Ask your team for help. Get an understanding of how they complete their tasks and ask them what they think is the best way to document the SOP.
Involving your team in this tasks gives them ownership and allows them to contribute to the growth of the business. This is really important if you want your business to grow.
Remember you are developing a business that operates without you and achieving team ownership ads significantly value to your business, their lives and provides a meaningful job.
Let’s Not Make this More Complicated Than it Needs to Be
The world is becoming more complicated. Is it because there are too many complicated SOP’s?
SOP’s are not rocket science. There is tons of information online about SOP’s and how to write them and what you should and shouldn’t do.
But realistically – it should be kept simple.
Think about an IKEA furniture pack and the instructions that come with it. Terrible! However, they do work even if you have to think about what the picture is actually trying to get across.
The point is – SOP’s should be kept simple but not so simple they are annoying to follow.
Personally the Step 1, Step 2 process with a related image is the simplest and best way to create an SOP. Anyone that tells you otherwise, I think, is pulling your leg or trying to sell you something.
You can only build or create something 1 step at a time so it makes logical sense that complicated processes are broken down into smaller tasks.
What are Your Thoughts?
Got any examples of other SOP’s or any other comments? Leave them below.