5 Vital Steps To Creating Powerful Standard Operating Procedures

5 Vital Steps To Creating Powerful Standard Operating Procedures

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The process of creating standard operating procedures is a great way for managers and their teams to work together to document processes for the benefit of everyone involved. Establishing and adhering to a framework for SOP development fosters effective teamwork and increases employee productivity.

SOPs take time to develop; they need attention to detail and research into your most important business operations. In this post, we present our suggested method for creating powerful standard operating procedures within your company.

1. Start By Defining The Goal

If you want to write an SOP that will actually be used, start by specifying the goal or end result of that SOP. For instance, if you are drafting a document that details the steps for closing a store every night, the objective is to secure the premises until the morning shift workers show up the following day.

Consider whether there’s a particular reason why your goal needs to be accompanied by an SOP document. Writing an outline and defining the specifics of your SOP will be considerably simpler if you know exactly what you want it to achieve.

2. Define Your Audience

Knowing who will be using the SOP you’re writing will help you determine how you should write your document. Here are some questions to consider:

  • What prior knowledge do they possess? Do they already understand how things work and how things are done in your organization? Are they familiar with the terminology? You must adapt your writing to the knowledge level of your audience.
  • Are these new employees? Your SOP documents need to be highly thorough and training-focused when bringing on new personnel in order to ensure consistent results.
  • What are your audience’s language skills? For instance, if your audience doesn’t speak your language natively, it might be smart to use more images than words.

Once you’ve identified your target audience, you can specify roles and responsibilities within the procedure so that everyone is aware of what they need to do.

3. Ask For Input From Your Team

Talk to your employees and ask them how they believe the task should be completed. Since you’ll be counting on them to follow the standard operating procedure, you should make sure it makes sense to them and that all the important responsibilities are covered.

In addition, be sure to encourage your team to see the drafts so they may offer more comments and suggest any adjustments.

4. Choose The Format Of Your SOP Document

If you don’t already have any standard operating procedure documents that have been created in the past that you can use as a guide, consider one of the following:

  • Simple steps. This is a great format for routine operations that are brief and simple to understand. Besides safety recommendations and other required documents, the simple steps format is typically bulleted or numbered list with short, straightforward sentences that are easy to follow. 
  • Hierarchical steps. You should opt for this format if your operations involve multiple steps. Typically, there is a list of primary steps with bullets or numbers, followed by a list of particular substeps.
  • Flowchart. Use this format to outline and organize processes with multiple potential outcomes. 

Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

5. Write The SOP

It should be noted that if you work for a big company, the language of your SOPs will be much more formal than those of a three-person startup team. However, the following tips will apply regardless of what business you work for:

  • Be clear and concise. Try to avoid rambling in a SOPs document. Make sure your writing is precise and only conveys the most important facts. 
  • Use an action word at the beginning of each statement task to clearly express what the reader needs to do.
  • Make your document scannable. Don’t force readers to dig through paragraphs of material to locate what they need in your SOP. Put the actionable sections in first, followed by the explanation, and use headers to break up larger blocks of text.

Final Thoughts

Be sure to test your SOP before introducing them to the entire company. Evaluate the SOP regularly to find areas where it may be strengthened and to account for any adjustments that have been made to existing practices.

Keeping your SOP up-to-date is the best way to ensure it remains the single source of truth for your company’s operations. Promote your SOP as a procedure that your staff should follow, and consider using employee input to help them get better.