business

Writing standard operating procedures in 16 steps

Writing SOPs doesn’t have to be hard. If you follow these great steps from PROCESS ST

  1. Understand how you will present your SOPs. This step is about choosing your template to fit the needs of the process. In certain industries you will have requirements which you need to adhere to. The layout of your SOPs will be influenced by the kind of information you need to display. Investigate which international standards apply to your business operations.
  2. Gather the relevant stakeholders. To properly map the processes in use within the company, you need to have relevant members of the company present. These standard operating procedures must reflect reality so that they can be adapted and optimized to improve reality.
  3. Work out your purpose. Are you documenting your standard operating procedures in order to adhere to industry standards? Or are you confident your operations already adhere, you just need to document them? Are you doing this out of a general process optimization push? Knowing the answers to questions like these will help you prioritize your approach.
  4. Determine the structure of your SOP. There are different forms a SOP document can take. Before beginning one, understand whether this is to be a manual, a mini-manual, or a procedure document. The larger your company, the more likely it is you’ll be creating an incredibly in-depth manual.
  5. Prepare the scope of the procedure. If you’re mapping only one procedure within the document you are working on then you need to understand exactly where the procedure starts and where it finishes. It is important to clearly define the scope in order to reduce overlap with other procedure documents. Not doing so would lead to inefficiencies.
  6. Use a consistent style. This is more writing advice, but you need to think about the purpose of the document to understand how it should be written. If this is a document used solely for demonstrating to the industry that you have documented SOPs, then maybe the language will be technical and trite. However, if workers are going to be using this document as a reference point, then you’ll need to make the language clear and actionable.
  7. Use correct notation, if applicable. There may well be standardized forms of conveying processes within your company, but if not you could begin to implement them. Business process model and notation provides a universal way to explain processes in a concise visual style.
  8. Work through all the necessary steps of the process. Assess the process from start to finish and note down each task required along the way to complete the process. This can be done in the form of a bullet point list with pen and paper or a note-taking app.
  9. Try to assess potential problems in the process. If you’re looking to improve your process as you work through your documentation, now is a good opportunity to do so. Assess the basic steps you have recorded and ask if anything else could be added or removed. If something were to go wrong in the process, where would it occur? Where does it currently occur in real life?
  10. Determine metrics against which SOPs can be judged. This is a great opportunity to make your standard operating procedures actionable and to find a way of assessing their positive impact. What metrics you choose to use will depend on the process you’re documenting. The key metrics may be related to performance or speed or a formula utilizing both of those variables.
  11. Test the process. To make sure the standard operating procedures you have documented are the most effective, test the process with the employees who undertake those tasks on a day to day basis. Make sure they are able to give feedback on the procedures presented so that you can make alterations to the process, procedures, or simply the document style before submission.
  12. Send the process to superiors. Submit your process for review by your line manager. Alternatively, if you do not have a line manager, find a colleague whose feedback you value and send the SOP document to them before declaring it to be complete.
  13. Clarify the method of optimizing the process. A standard operating procedure document should track its own revisions over time. However, it is useful to have a general system in place to govern these revisions and how and when they occur. Creating a process for process optimization is an effective means of delivering this iterative change.
  14. Run a risk assessment on the process. A process involves people or data or something somewhere which can be hurt, damaged, or lost. Make sure to run a risk assessment on your processes to make sure you’re not opening up your company’s risk exposure.
  15. Consider creating a flow diagram. A visual aid to help other people understand the overview of the process will prove useful for people both assessing and following the process presented in the standard operating procedures. Including one increases the user friendly level of the document.
  16. Finalize and implement the SOPs. Once all participants and stakeholders have signed off on the document and people have agreed to its use, implement the standard operating procedure document for the necessary process and file the document appropriately.