Let's discuss the What, Why and How of Standard Operating Procedures and how they benefit organizations.
What is an SOP (standard operating procedure)? This is defined as: 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.
1. S stands for Standard - a standard or consistent measurable process is required so it can be repeated. The goal of a standard is to make sure items are handled in the same way, each time, by various people.
2. O stands for Operating - it must be an operational or workable process. In other words, it has a function and can procedure must be understood by those responsible for completing it, and it must be a logical workflow for taking actions.
So in the end an SOP is a set of repeatable, workable actions.
Why use SOP's in business
1. To drive decisions to the lowest level of the organization. This is a critical point in any organization. An organization cannot grow without pushing the decisions down to where the actions take place. The speed of a business is dependent on the trust of the organization. Trust is built with consistent processes that are followed from top to bottom.
2. For training and growth. Documented processes allow for clear training to new employees and stakeholders.
3. Continual improvement. Having documented process allows for a regular review and improvement activities.
4. Visual control. The process, forms...etc. within the documented process can be made visible for daily reference.
In summary we use SOP's to build consistency, trust, speed, and foster growth, while continuously improving.
How to get SOP's into an organization:
1. As the work is being done write it down. Just simply write the steps as you do them. Next, review the steps with all the stakeholders to be sure something was not missed, then document the process. This last step could be accomplished by creating a form or procedural list to be followed and used as a guide each time the process is completed regardless of who is completing it.
2. Use a document control system. This allows for review, prevents 'floating' copies, and controls the revision levels of the processes. This is important to keep everyone following the same processes.
3. Teach and train the processes and how to reference them. Make it part of the culture.
In summary, Document, Control, and Teach them.
Hopefully this has given you a quick overview of SOP's and the importance of the What, Why, and How.
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