Why SOP Quality is Critical
Building SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) is an important part of running your business smoothly. However, it’s not just about getting SOPs written – you’ve got to make sure that they’re accurate, useful, up to date, and easy to understand.
Whether they cover internal processes, marketing, or anything else, SOPs explain exactly how to carry out certain tasks, breaking everything down step by step. SOPs are critical for a wide range of reasons – here’s three important ones:
- They ensure that recurring tasks are handled consistently and effectively.
- They’re an ideal way to train staff, quickly introducing new tasks.
- They remove uncertainty, improving work quality and satisfaction.
All of these essentially come down to one critical point – SOPs provide a basis for working more effectively while removing frustrations and uncertainties.
That’s the best-case scenario, of course. If your SOPs aren’t designed well, they can actually end up causing a lot more problems than they’ll ever solve.
As an example, if your SOPs use ambiguous, unclear language, your workers are going to approach tasks in entirely different ways, invalidating the SOP. In some cases, unclear language can lead to tasks being performed incorrectly, causing major operational issues.
Getting the best possible results from your SOPs requires effective design and clear language. Time to make sure your SOPs are performing as well as they could?
How to Write Effective SOPs
Writing SOPs well can seem complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are a few key points to consider when reviewing them, no matter what part of your business they cover:
Clear Purpose: There should be a reason for every SOP to exist. Make sure this is clear from the start – one of the first elements in each of your SOPs should explain what the document is actually for.
It’s also important to make sure that your SOPs don’t cover too much ground. Each SOP should be about a specific topic or action, rather than covering multiple operations (though the actual scope will depend upon how your company operates).
Precise Definitions: Don’t start off with the assumption that every reader knows everything about the systems, abbreviations, and mechanisms covered in your SOP. Provide a set of relevant definitions early on.
Unambiguous Language: Once you’ve written them, take some time to review the language of your SOPs (having a second person review the language can be a particularly effective way to handle this), fixing any uncertainties or issues that appear.
Effective Visuals: If you’re using images in your SOPs, make sure that they’re high-quality and cropped around what actually needs to be shown. There’s no point in just pasting a fullscreen image if you’re just discussing a single small part of the image.
Accommodating for Problems: In many cases, SOPs are written as though everything will work perfectly every time, leaving your employees unsure how to proceed when things go wrong. Try to ensure that your SOPs explain what to do in case a step fails.
Utilizing Internal Linking: Some of your SOPs are almost certainly related in one way or another. Whenever a connection comes up, include a link to the relevant SOP – this may seem like a minor point, but it adds an extra level of organization, improving the effectiveness of your setup.
Work Through your SOPs: The most effective way to test your SOPs is to actually see what happens when you use them. Take some time to try carrying out the actions in your SOP (or have someone else provide feedback on the process) – this will help uncover any missing points while clearing out any remaining ambiguities.
Are your SOPs holding you back? It might be time for an expert review. Get in touch with us today for a free consultation, and we’ll help you turn your SOPs from a liability into an effective driver for efficient, consistent excellence!
Author: Richard Parkin