Standard operating procedures, or SOPs, comprise the blueprint that will make sure your company can continue to operate in all situations. Documenting processes and writing SOPs should be a priority for company planners and managers. Writing SOPs and maintaining a library of these important documents allows you to:
- Maintain consistency - Written procedures outline how situations and processes should be handled, and these guidelines can be followed each time an incident occurs.
- Educate new employees - New employees can learn how your company operates by studying its SOPs.
- Ensure knowledge is not lost - SOPs ensure that important knowledge is maintained through employee retirement or job changes.
When writing SOPs, remember these five important points:
- Write the important SOPs first. Your employees will benefit more from having SOPs that cover basic functions, emergency procedures and other critical elements.
- Maintain simplicity. Long, complex SOPs can be difficult to follow. Strive to keep your SOPs simple and easy to use while still ensuring all important steps are included. Break down complex tasks into smaller sub-steps. Include illustrations, diagrams, flowcharts or other visual aids that can help with understanding.
- Consider your audience. Produce SOPs based on the education, experience, knowledge and abilities of the people who will use them . For example, line operators won't need the same type of technically complex SOP that an manufacturing engineer needs.
- Test and verify SOP function. Once the SOP is finished, test it with those individuals who will be most likely to use it. Have them follow the SOP from beginning to end to ensure the information is clear and that no steps have been left out. Consider bringing in other testers who aren't familiar with the process and having them apply the SOP.
- Review and revise, as needed: Once the SOP has been in use for several weeks, ask for responses from those with direct experience using it. Ensure that the SOP is clear, accomplishes its purpose and is easy to read and use. Revise based on the feedback you receive.