How To Create Great Standard Operating Procedures
Then, instantly turn your SOP into actionable workflows with TeamworkIQ
What Is a Standard Operating Procedure?
A standard operating procedure or ‘SOP‘ is a set of instructions laid out step-by-step, for a specific task or set of tasks including steps and substeps. Its purpose is to guide workers in the implementation of critical tasks which must be done thoroughly, accurately, and consistently.
It is a common misconception that an SOP must be complex. This is wrong. A well-constructed SOP is simple and broken down into small chunks of instructions which are as clear as possible. The purpose of an SOP is not to dazzle the reader with its complexity. The purpose of an SOP is to be accurate and to describe the task simply and completely so that it cannot fail to be understood.
Who Should Develop Standard Operating Procedures?
Any organization, small or large can benefit from documenting its processes. When you are small, a few people need to do many things. SOPs provide the training and guidance to get things done right–especially when one person must cover for another. As organizations become larger, new employees need to learn and execute the processes, and existing employees need to make sure they do not miss a step even though they may be familiar with a process.
One of the main challenges any organization faces when it starts to grow is how to make sure the quality and accuracy of work the organization aspires to deliver can be maintained as new members of the team are added. Process knowledge that existed among a small group of people now has to be communicated to others. This can happen in training sessions, mentoring by managers, or in step-by-step documentation for the process. Such documentation describes the standard operating procedure for that process or workflow. It embraces the best practices of the organization to assure high-quality outcomes and to make sure things get done right the first time without costly errors or omissions. Organizations who want to master and scale their operations should develop clear, concise, and accurate Standard Operating Procedures, (SOP) as step 1. Once done, step 2 should focus on automating and streamlining those procedures to save execution time and boost the quality of the outcomes.
Step 1: Tips on Writing a Winning SOP
The best standard operating procedure documents do two things:
- Describe the process workflow and its tasks accurately. All steps of the process are included. All workflow steps are listed and described in the correct order. All tasks are properly detailed so that someone without expert knowledge can reasonably execute the task
- Use the simplest and easiest to understand language possible. The goal is to create an SOP that even a child could understand
To create a successful SOP, it is necessary that the writer possesses a comprehensive understanding of who needs to do what, and in what sequence. It is also necessary for the writer to know how to use the sparest language possible. Understand, the point of an SOP is not to impress. Its purpose is to provide a description of important processes that are literally foolproof.
A winning SOP gets each step of the process it describes in the right order. A winning SOP leaves no part of the process out, it leaves nothing to be guessed at. A winning SOP is specific about what tasks are to be done by what job type, position, or proficiency.
What a Good, Simple SOP Looks Like
A functioning SOP will follow a simple format that leaves nothing to chance. Some Standard Operating Procedure formats are verbose with many definitions of purpose, roles, and responsibilities described on the first page or two–before the procedure itself is described. These include a title, the department it is meant for, the name of the process described, the purpose of the process described, definitions of relevant terms, and the operational procedure with each step of the workflow detailed out into individual, sequential tasks. All the formality helps big businesses with regulatory compliance and operational standards certifications.
However, in practice many small to medium businesses as well as enterprise business departments choose to use a simplified form of SOP where title and purpose are stated, but the procedure is clearly outlined upfront with step-by-step instructions. Supplemental details are provided for each task interactively in a separate panel. This approach makes the key steps of the workflow easy to comprehend at a glance, but the details for tasks there when needed.
Here is an example of a simplified SOP for a property management company implemented as a usable online checklist:
Sharing Your Standard Operating Procedure with Others
Once your Standard Operating Procedure is written, it can be shared with staff via a content management system, an internal website, or file system. You can also find SOP management software available as an online service. TeamworkIQ not only lets you create SOPs and share them, it also enables you to turn the written SOP into an interactive step-by-step online checklist. The New York Times business bestseller, The Checklist Manifesto, by Atul Gawande, includes many examples of SOPs from nay industries implemented as simple, clear, and actionable checklists.
Step 2: Automating Your SOP
It used to be that if you wanted to automate a workflow or a procedure, you’d have to engage your IT department or hire developers to build a workflow atop expensive workflow software. However, the time and cost combined make it prohibitive for most processes. All except the most critical processes get left to manual management via email and spreadsheets which in turn east up valuable time and is more prone to human error.
What if the SOP document you typed up could come alive and be automated instantly without extra effort? With TeamworkIQ they do.
Creating and Automating SOPs with TeamworkIQ is Easy
TeamworkIQ turns “words into workflows”. That means the SOP you typed up describing who needs to do what, when and in what order is already set up to be automated. Use TeamworkIQ to save your Standard Operating Procedure as a reusable template, then press “start”. When you do, TeamworkIQ generates an actionable checklist from your SOP and handles all the next steps for you.
Work moves forward automatically while TeamworkIQ keeps you up-to-date, alerting you should any issues arise. that can guide an individual or an entire team through the process to make sure things get done right. TeamworkIQ’s smart checklists manage each step, assign tasks at the right time, provide the SOP details to the assignees, and let you monitor the process start to finish so that you always know what’s going on. The checklist helps assure nothing gets missed. The fact that each member of the team can see other people’s responsibilities creates increases team accountability and leads to things getting done faster. Thus, each TeamworkIQ smart checklist is simultaneously an SOP document to be read and an interactive document that can be used to track progress.
Put interactive SOPs to work for you. Make sure things get done right. Don’t let anything fall through the cracks. Know what’s going on. Boost accountability, and free up your workday.
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)