Why your company needs a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)

It’s essential for every business to have established Standard Operating Procedures, however, in times of transition, it’s crucial you have a solid foundation to draw from. Each business needs to have a solid idea of what ideal company operations look like, particularly when the market is in flux (a global pandemic, for instance). A proper SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) document lets you know exactly what the operation should look like and how to accomplish the necessary tasks.

Simple, right?

Great SOPs should be simple, but they’re typically just a mess.

Companies are being forced to adapt en masse, which means SOPS are changing dramatically around the country. COVID19 is putting pressure on every part of business operations, revealing the inadequacies of many standard practices. Crisis tests the foundations of any company, and hits hard where they fall short.

Most companies don’t understand exactly how essential SOPs are. They’re deeply rooted in the operations of every department of every company, so it’s worth taking a long hard look at yours.

Most SOPs aren’t up to snuff

Most companies say they have SOPs, but what they’re referring to isn’t so much a concise document as it is a sprawling repository. These documents are overwhelming, inefficient, and counterproductive. The average SOP contains too much overly-technical information that renders them unusable as broad overviews.

When a company is getting started, they often don’t have time to thoughtfully compile an SOP document. New hires either get nothing, or a massive and confusing library dumped on them. Either way, it’s bad news for everybody.

Getting your SOP in line

Work hard to ensure your SOPs are in great shape, because they impact every part of your company’s operations. Effective SOPs have the following qualities:

  • Assess job performance

Good SOPs outline exactly what an employee is expected to accomplish. They should essentially be interchangeable with a job description. Just by going through the list of tasks, you’ll be able to clearly establish what the expectations of the position are, exactly what needs to be accomplished, and how to assess the work being done.

Without accurate SOPs, HR can’t do its job.

  • Gauge quality control

You can’t tell if a job’s been done well if you don’t know what needs to be done. If you’ve clearly and effectively outlined standard procedure, the quality of work becomes apparent. Viewing operations through the lense of standard procedure is the best way to gauge the quality of work.

Additionally, bad practices are immediately obvious when compiling SOPs. If an SOP is nonsensical or inefficient, so is the workflow. Laying out the work intuitively and accurately makes it possible to reassess the regular daily duties of a position.

  • Clear and concise

Good standard operating procedures are simple, accurate, and thorough. These documents get confusing when they’re bogged down with the “how”, instead of the what. Listing exactly how to perform every task leads to overly-complicated documents that simply aren’t useful.

When you get into the abstract of a given workday, there aren’t very many actual items to accomplish. Even if the tasks themselves are complex — especially if they’re complex — it’s crucial to divide the workday into a manageable overview.

The “how” should be covered during training, so stick with the “what” to stay concise and practical.

Make your SOP’s better before sh*t hits the fan

It can be difficult to be objective when writing the SOPs for your own company. An unbiased view is invaluable because an outsider can ask the kind of abstract questions that would be useful for a new hire (“What’s the first thing you do after you clock in?”).

Since the pandemic, I’M NOT MAD AT YOU, Consulting has been flooded with requests to assist in organizing standard operations. The strain on companies from the current economic difficulties has brought awareness to these issues, and it’s of the utmost importance that they address them.

Your business needs solid standard operating procedures. They’re essential for people, structure, operations, and most importantly the bottom line. Don’t underestimate how integral they are, and don’t hesitate to get them in great shape. A lot is riding on it.