SOPs Help You Get Sh!t Done…
but how do you write one?
An SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) is the next step after documenting your task processes, which we discussed in our blog post earlier this month. An effective SOP should have a uniform format across all sectors of your business. There are several ways to organize an SOP but most contain some or all of the following information.
This portion of the SOP should include the process name, version, and the date it was last updated. It should also clearly identify the task being documented.
Oftentimes, SOPs are related to other procedures within your organization. This section is an opportunity to link to related SOPs that are necessary to understand and execute this SOP. If you are utilizing an indexing system, reference the title and identifying numbers for the referenced document. Otherwise, include a link to where the document is stored along with its title.
This portion of the SOP should define the purpose of the SOP in less than two sentences. It should be detailed enough to allow you and your team to recognize what the document contains without extraneous details or any actual procedural information.
The scope of the SOP defines what this procedure applies to, and who needs to utilize it. At times, it is necessary to not only state who the SOP is for, but to clearly identify those times when the SOP is not to be used. Your scope should leave no room for interpretation, spelling out the information that means everyone who views it will have the same understanding of its purpose and relevancy.
Guidelines + Roles
In this portion, define the roles responsible for executing this specific procedure, including the SOP Manager and the SOP Implementor. If you find that there are too many roles executing in the SOP, consider creating multiple smaller SOPs to complete the task and allow for separation. This portion of the SOP should also identify any propriety and uncommon terms and phrases that a user may not understand in the context of the SOP. Be sure to include any acronyms or abbreviations that are used.
Specification + Procedure
This portion is the majority of the SOP. It ensures that you are outlining your standards and allows you to identify any compliance expectations and requirements for your industry.
The Procedure section should include only the steps necessary for accomplishing the objective of this SOP, and not extraneous tasks. You should have individual action steps within each major step that provide information for clarifying how the task is completed and the responsibilities. These action steps are also the ideal place to highlight important or regulatory compliance based steps.
Oftentimes the best way to explain a complex topic is with a flowchart or visual aid, which you can include in this section for you and your team to utilize alongside the written procedures.
As you update your SOP, be sure to document the changes made and the justification/reason for the change. This audit trail will help you avoid “flip-flopping” between SOPs and give greater insight into best practices for your company.
Unsure where to start? Download the free template for creating your SOPs – tailored to fit the needs of entrepreneurs and small businesses based on years of experience.