What is a SOP and why is it vitally important to any business? SOPs are Standard Operating Procedures and is a written procedure with agreed upon specifications intended for repetitive use as a best practice.
For the employee, the manual provides all information needed to perform a task correctly and consistently. After the initial investment is made to create the manual, a procedure that should be included is how to manage an update process for it and keep it easily accessible to employees. They are most effectively used in combination with staff training and performance feedback. Well-written SOPs provide clarity, direction, effective communication, and work consistency.
Who should be responsible for SOP development in a company and what is the best process? These are the key questions and answers to success.
The SOP development process must be cooperative. The involvement of management and all levels of staff secures the most successful compilation while building a positive experience of teamwork. The company’s success becomes a clear common goal on every level.
Additionally, being written by those who fully understand and perform the tasks to be carried out provides inclusion of real experiences, issues and previously discovered resolutions. Hopefully it can also highlight any risks still associated with those tasks and create solutions.
Allocation of the tasks to the correct personnel is a key step. Though not all colleagues can be a part of the drafting and writing process, having as many as possible a part of the reviewing and/or testing processes prior to release is a best practice.
The Key SOP Components include:
- Statement of Purpose: This opening paragraph(s) summarize the purpose of the SOP clearly and describes the operations it supports.
- Objective: Definition of the SOP’s efforts or actions; goal and activities does it cover
- Responsibility: Assignment of each task to a specific position or person responsible for carrying out the task.
- Ancillary documents, materials and equipment: List of any forms, reference documents, and equipment requirements.
- Procedure: Step-by-step procedure.
- Distribution: Record of the staff distribution of the SOP and any updates and revisions to original manual.
SOPs are powerful tools and create control of work procedures. By defining each detail, it ultimately creates a roadmap on the difference between success and failure. The SOP’s effective communication additionally creates a higher level of employee engagement, motivation and overall satisfaction.
The process, when done right, is a large investment of time but the steps to develop a SOP are methodical and worth the investment once implemented.
Steps to Develop an SOP include:
- Build a Development Team. Involving staff ensures ownership and support. People support what they help create.
- Planning: Outline the steps currently used to complete a process. Answer the following questions
- How do you complete the process?
- What are the reasons it is done this way?
- Where are the areas that have challenges?
- Describe with examples of issues.
- What solutions have been put in place?
- Does this rectify the problem?
- How will the SOP improve the process?
- How will the performance be measured?
- First Draft: Make a detailed list of the steps in numerical order in which they are completed. Assign a number to each step. Use clear, simple language. Include details. Label as the first draft of the procedure.
- Internal Review: Get input from all staff who currently perform the procedure on the first draft. Physically visiting areas, with staff, that steps are performed is helpful. Revise the procedure as necessary. After all revisions have been included and documented, label as revised first draft and date it. Tips include using photography, flowcharts, and graphics as often as possible in concert with the numerical steps. With a focus on helping staff work independently using this documentation, visual aids can be a benefit.
- Second Level Review: Review both the steps and revisions requested to your executive level, management and technical staff. Note advice and revisions about best practices for each step and revise the procedure.
- Second Internal Review: Share latest revisions to staff who are currently performing the procedures and note any concerns. Physically visit areas, with that staff, to take notes on steps that do not have a consensus. Revise the procedure as necessary. Report to the Second Level Review committee.
- Test: Follow each step, in order, exactly as documented to test the procedure. It is important to have an independent person, not familiar with the work, follow the procedure and give feedback. Revise if necessary.
- Final Draft: Make a final draft and date it. Any revisions beyond that point need to be documented and dated. Revise when necessary as SOPs are living documents.
- Post: Post the procedure in the workplace in a daily accessible location. Post SOPs in the workplace in both an electronic place and a physical place. Lamination or plastic sheet protectors are preferred ways to secure.
- Train: Re-train everyone following the procedure exactly. Train all new employees to the procedure with this SOP.
Standard Operating Procedures should be treated with the respect of an official document. That level of respect tends to be defined by a company’s culture but should be required by management. Communication is key to educate that these are not training materials. They should be used as a tool in the training process but are official documents on operational safety and standards.
Future FOC blog articles on SOP Development will be rolled out over 2018 through our Operations and Shipping Departments as we invest in our development.
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Additional resources from the FOC team include:
- FOC technical solution content: http://bit.ly/29WTvgn
- Glossary, Acronyms, Military Specifications for Connectors: http://bit.ly/2a2EFn8
- Q&A Resource: email technical questions to AskFOC@focenter.com
Here are the links to this full Marketing Blog Series:
- FOC Marketing Tip 1: Branding Matters
- FOC Marketing Tip 2: Building Relationships through Solution and Consultative Selling
- FOC Marketing Tip 3: Marketing Objectives vs. Actions: Identifying Where the Discrepancies Occur
- FOC Marketing Tip 4: The Dilemma of Online Strategy
- FOC Marketing Tip 5: Promotion Best Practices
- FOC Marketing Tip 6: SOP Development
- FOC Marketing Tip 7: Global Strategy Conversation
- FOC Marketing Tip 8: The Roles of a Marketing Team
- FOC Marketing Tip 9: Trade Show Strategy Revisited
- FOC Marketing Tip 10: Product Inventory Management and a quick snapshot….
- FOC Marketing Tip 11: Business Development: An Honest Conversation
- FOC Marketing Tip 12: Social Media Navigation
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