25 SOP Templates, Examples, Tips, and Resources
How To Get Your Standard Operating Procedures Done Right
What Is The Best Way To Create SOPs?
As you grow and hire new staff, making sure the quality of the product or service you provide remains high is critical. To keep quality standards high as you grow, use SOPs (standard operating procedures) to document and share how every aspect of your business operates. When you do, you empower other people to get things done right. Maintaining high-quality standards helps retain existing customers and get new ones. With high-quality procedures, you’ll operate more efficiently. Automate your processes to drive productivity, reduce costly errors, and boost profitability.
What Is A Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)?
A standard operating procedure (SOP) is a set of instructions that describes the steps required to perform a process to accomplish an objective.
An SOP describes an operational process to be performed by one or more people including:
- Process steps, sub-steps, tasks, and sub-tasks within those steps. These can be a mix of sequential steps, or, steps that can occur in any order. This concept is also referred to as “dependencies”. Typically a SOP document starts by stating the purpose and objectives for the process then gets more detailed and fine-grained. High-level processes are broken into smaller steps and the tasks required to accomplish the step. Sub-steps, sub-tasks, and details are added until there is sufficient detail that anyone can understand the process.
- Who needs to do which steps and tasks. Typically job functions like “Accountant”, “Supervisor”, “HR Manager” are used to describe the role.
- What resources or systems are required to be able to perform the work. Think tools, machinery, software, timelines, facilities, etc…
- How the work is done. Detailed work instructions, images, videos, and other materials help produce a high-quality system.
Making the Best Choice
If you have ever read a standard operating procedure manual or looked at SOPs templates, you’ve seen that some forms of SOP documentation can be extremely detailed. These long-format SOPs are usually seeking to meet either compliance requirements or in-depth training objectives. However, SOPs can also be short, friendly, focused, and highly actionable.
Either way, the long and short of it is that starting to write your SOPs can be a daunting task. That’s why we’ve included more than 25 SOP templates, examples, and links to more SOP resources below.
But first, which type of SOP template will be right for you?
Full SOPs Manuals
Some SOP formats such as ISO-9001 and ISO-9001:2015 can be very long and detailed to meet international standards compliance. If your business is part of larger supply chains for which ISO-9001 is required to win business, then this level of depth is appropriate. If not, then good news… This level of a detailed SOP is likely overkill for your needs.
Step-by-step procedure documents can be shorter and more succinct than full, formal SOP manuals. Such procedure documents are designed with the objective to help workers easily follow the process to get things done. These are great for training new employees on your standard processes and in some cases can incorporate video and other interactive elements such as automated checklists and workflows.
Checklists are one of the easiest ways to direct people to follow a standard procedure. Pilots use checklists to make sure every aspect of the preflight process is good to go before heading down the runway. These are simple. But do not let simplicity mean they are not powerful. Key aspects of the process are easy to see at a glance. It’s easy to see which tasks need to get done and which have been completed. Plus, the act of checking items off as you go serves to make sure no step gets missed. The book The Checklist Manifesto explores the power of the checklist great depth.
Turn Written Procedures into Automated Workflows
When you automate the step-by-step procedures in SOPs, you can combine the educational and documentation aspects of the SOP with the productivity and reliability of an automated workflow system. Online software like TeamworkIQ goes a step further. It lets you instantly turn your SOP business processes into automated workflows. This combination of functions saves workers and management time and effort. Individual processes generated from the procedure documentation can be tracked and monitored from start to finish by everyone involved. Task assignments and tracking assure work is focused while costly errors from missed steps are eliminated.
How to Pick The Right SOP Template?
Great SOP Templates Set the Standard Early
Picking the right SOP template for your objectives is important. If your objective is simply to increase consistency and reduce errors by documenting process steps, a simple template likely meets your needs. However, larger companies want to work at an internationally-recognized level such as ISO-9001 standards, which are based on Quality Management Systems (QMS). SOPs that meet ISO-9001 standards are extremely detailed and often lengthy. That may be what you need, but for smaller businesses, something shorter and simpler will likely be more embraced and effective for your team. SOPs can range in concept from manuals with extremely high degrees of standards-conforming details to easy-to-use checklists that simply seek to make sure things get done right.
Step 1: Define Your Structure and Scope
Once you know how complex you need your SOP to be, the next step is to assign it a structure and a scope.
The three most basic SOP templates are, in order of simplest to the most complex:
- Simple, easy-to-use checklists can make certain nothing gets missed. These are simple yet powerful.
- Friendly step-by-step documentation of your standard procedures helps guide your staff through getting things done right.
- ISO-9001: 2015 “mini-manuals” provide a more small-business friendly way to meet ISO-9001 standards. Note that ISO-9001:2015 requirements may be different for different types of businesses. Be sure to check.
- ISO-9001 QMS manuals are needed when supplier relationships or regulatory compliance require standards-compliant procedures and extremely thorough documentation of them.
In most cases, the ISO-9001 QMS manuals are composed of a master document and many sub-documents. For these, the master SOP document provides the broadest overview of every aspect of the business operations and provides links to the sub-documents which then provide the actionable step-by-step documentation for your standard procedures.
A general rule of thumb is that the larger the company or the more complex the procedure, the more detailed the SOP will need to be. If you’re a business operating at an ISO-9001 standard with a project that involves many remote teams, you likely need a fully compliant manual. If you’re leading a department within a large business, or manage a small or medium-sized business then procedure documents or checklists are likely suitable. Starting with checklists and procedures also has the benefit of getting your team following process standards sooner. These documents can always be built up into full manuals later.
Step 2: Be Consistent, Be Clear, and Reflect Reality
The best way to produce the steps for your SOP template is to go through the procedures yourself and detail them as if you were briefing someone.
Before you begin, you’ll need to decide if you’ll record your procedures in a document or in a more modern interactive system for SOPs. To avoid doing work twice, we recommend you using TeamworkIQ to outline your procedures so that you will later have the benefit of being able to instantly automate your processes. If you prefer these to be in documents, use a word processor like Microsoft Word or Google Docs, or use other webpage building or document management tools. Once you’ve outlined the process, go back to each step add more details. Add sub-topics, tasks, and detailed work instructions as needed.
Think about the industry knowledge of the teams working with your SOP template. An SOP that your teams use as reference point needs to be educational as well as instructional. Avoid technical language where possible and explain terminology you need to use. When you’re delivering an SOP to teams with industry knowledge, you can afford to be a little more technical.
The main focus is consistency and clarity. For each step in your SOP, make sure that the step is clear, concise and actionable. Keep using the same level of technical language throughout.
Once this is complete, you have your procedure document drafted.
Step 3: Add, Images, Video, Links To SOP Documents
If you have looked at many SOP documents then you have noticed how long, text-heavy, and imposing many can be. Historically SOPs have been predominantly text documents, created in Microsoft Word or other document publishing tools. However, we now live in a 21st-century connected world where most information is accessed online (and rarely from binders on the shelf). The online world also makes it far easier to include images and videos in your SOP to efficiently communicate the details you need to convey.
Consider recording and embedding videos that show how to get things done in your SOP. If an image is worth 1000 words, videos are worth 10,000. If you want to learn how to replace the air filter for your car, you’re more likely to look up a how-to video on YouTube than read the maintenance manual. Why? You know you’ll learn how to do it faster from seeing it and explained in a video rather than slogging through lengthy text and sparse illustrations in the owner’s manual.
Add images where they help explain a concept or action. Using text to explain how to configure the security system keypad is far easier when an image or photo of that keypad is included.
Link to documents and other resources referenced by the SOP. For example, link to downloadable document templates or software systems which are needed to complete a step in the process.
Step 4: Test the Process; Fix What’s Broken
Once you’ve produced the first draft of your SOP template, run through it yourself to look for improvements, but more importantly have a colleague or associate who is unfamiliar with the process work through it. As the author of the SOP, you’re at a disadvantage for assessing the clarity and completeness of the SOP. You already know too much about the process. Give it to a colleague with a critical eye who can go through it from start to finish and ask:
- Is the task clear?
- Is this step directed at the right worker?
- Is this within the scope of the SOP?
- Is the step clear?
- Is the language consistent?
- Does the step match up with the process?
- What could go wrong at this step, and do these instructions cover that eventuality?
Fixes, tweaks, and amendments should happen at this stage. Add more details about what the steps entail. Cut the excess from overly complex steps or break them down into smaller steps.
While you’re working through this step, this is a great opportunity to define the KPIs and metrics by which you can judge your SOPs. While you’re making sure your SOP is functional and actionable, denote the positive impact that following the SOP might have. These metrics will be invaluable for making sure the expectations for your workforce are properly aligned.
Step 5: Assess, Optimize, and Finalize
Now that you have a complete draft of the SOP, it’s time to assess, optimize and finalize the template.
For assessment, it’s best to get feedback from your manager or supervisor. Also get the opinions of some of the people who will need to follow the processes and procedures described in the SOP. Make sure that it meets their expectations, incorporate their feedback, and make the final changes.
It’s also worth running a risk assessment at this stage. No matter whether your SOP involves people, property or data – if there’s a potential for damage to something or someone, assess the risks.
Then it’s time to finalize the process and get it into active use.
Make Your SOP Template Actionable with TeamworkIQ
Throughout the process of developing your SOP, TeamworkIQ can help you to efficiently produce SOP documents. TeamworkIQ can turn the bullets of your SOP’s first draft into a collaborative checklist for revisions and sign-off. When you’ve finished implementing the final optimizations of the SOP template, TeamworkIQ can enable you to turn that list into an immediately actionable SOP ready to assign your team members to.
Whether you need a simple checklist, a step-by-step procedure guide, a mini-manual, or a full ISO-9001 adherent manual, TeamworkIQ handles it. Each bulleted list is adaptable between projects, meaning you can remove or included steps as per the project requirements.
The best part of being immediately actionable is that your employees can get to work straight away. TeamworkIQ informs your team when their part in the SOP comes up. By following the above steps you’ve developed a consistent and easy-to-follow SOP. With TeamworkIQ that process becomes easy to discover, easy to learn, and easy to execute and track. Consistency and success rates increase when processes are followed while costly errors become a thing of the past.
Get Started with these SOP Templates
Here’s a powerful, interactive SOP template from TeamworkIQ. It not only serves to document your process, it can also be used to generate multiple, live workflows with which you can track and manage the execution of the process to make sure things get done right.
Click here to customize and use this template.
More Free SOP Templates
SOP Template as a Checklist
SOP Template with Procedural Checklists
SOP Template with Step-by-Step Procedures
SOP Template for ISO-9001:2015 Operations Manual / Mini-Manual
This template also from https://www.iso-9001-checklist.co.uk/ provides a full example of an ISO-9001:2015 operations manual.
SOP Template for ISO-9001 Operations Manual
More Free SOP Template Resources
If you need to keep things simple for your operations, template.net has many more free SOP templates and examples you can download.
freetemplatedownloads.net is also a good starting point, provided you’re prepared to follow the steps above. It doesn’t do a great deal to guide you through it but following our template steps above will help with that.
The British National Health Service asked Oxford researchers to design their SOP templates. These are good examples of processes and procedures that are so critical, it’s a matter of life and death.
Keep SOP Templates Actionable and Collaborative
Unless you are striving for ISO-9001 certification, the first SOPs you create should be simple in scope and seek to solve your immediate needs. They can always be further refined and updated. TeamworkIQ provides built-in revision control tools so that one version of the SOP can remain in use while updated versions are being created, then rolled out. It’s better to get something into use that guides team members through a process now, then it is to strive for ultra-detailed perfection. When you use the templates and the examples above, you’ll be on the right track for a clear and concise SOP.
Remember to set your standards and scope and be consistent and clear in your steps then test, asses, fix and finalize. With these steps in mind, you will be able to develop a concise SOP template – no matter how detailed or complex the process is.
Let us know if you found this article helpful and share your tips and examples for SOPs in the comments below. To discover more about using TeamworkIQ to not only document your SOP, but automate the process it describes, get in touch today.
Automate processes in minutes. It’s as easy as 1-2-3.
When typing up a process, simply outline who needs to do what. Reuse checklists as templates for recurring processes and standard procedures.
- Use numbered lists to outline step-by-step processes. Mix in regular bullets for work that can happen in any order.
- Add approval actions with one or more approvers.
- Attach files, capture and share data using form fields. * (coming soon)