What is standard operating procedure?
In the age of digital transformation, it has become necessary for companies of all kinds and sizes to adopt a more collaborative and integrated approach. A standard operating procedure (SOP) is a set of processes that details the step-by-step procedures for performing a specific task. The procedures are documented for reference purposes, intended to ensure consistent procedures, and should be followed exactly to avoid any potential confusion or issues. In other words, the standard operating procedure is a valuable tool for streamlining operations and reducing the time it takes to complete a task.
SOP for Dummies- A Complete Guide to The Standard Operating Procedure
How to write an effective Standard Operating Procedure?
Whatever business you're in, you should have well-defined SOPs to guide your team members through their daily responsibilities in a safe, consistent, and rule-abiding manner.
While the best SOP is that which entails a basic process that everyone on your team can comprehend and follow without difficulty. Documenting the procedures' SOP requires specific details. Let us walk you through the process of writing SOPs in just a few simple steps-
The need for SOP
Begin by determining which areas or business process in your company require a standard operating procedure. It could be new employee onboarding, internal auditing, inventory management, food storage, and so on.
Determine who is your target audience
While writing SOP for a task or process, for the organization as a whole, one must take into account every step, however minor it may appear to be, in the writing process. To reduce mistakes, inefficiencies, and downtime, work instructions should explicitly state what tasks must be completed. To write an effective SOP, you should know who you're writing it for by determining who is going to read the SOP. You need to keep their knowledge base, familiarity with the organization, level of experience, in mind. If you plan to create SOP for new hires, keep the wording simple and avoid using technical or organizational jargon.
Before you actually sit down, ensure that you get first-hand information from all stakeholders involved, and that you haven't overlooked anything important.
Define your goal
You must also have clarity on the desired end result. The SOP's application and its use should be clearly defined. Outline the business procedures for which the SOP will be used. Assume you're a restaurant management firm looking to writing standard operating procedure for reducing food waste. As a result, your SOP will cover topics such as food storage temperature regulation, inventory management, FIFO practice, and so on, with the focus on reducing food waste as the end result.
You should start by collecting data on the procedure, process, and activity. An expert on the technique or manager responsible for carrying out the assignment should provide the structure of the details which the team wants to standardize.
Choose a Format
There are three basic formats (which we will discuss later in the article later) for writing an SOP, depending on how complex the process is. Choose the option that best meets your needs.
SOP typically has key five elements-
Purpose, step-by-step procedures, scope(defining the use and applicability), responsibilities, and accountability measures.
Other than the elements, the operating procedure document will also have the name of the practice for which the procedure-document SOP is intended, the SOP writing will also have the author's name, the name of the reviewer, the name of the approver, the date of writing, and the date of review. A new SOP is easier to grasp if you have a process map with the procedure journey or workflow. You should also include the reference materials for your team members' use. If you're modifying the SOP, be sure to include the revision history. You should examine it once or twice a year to make sure that as the the SOP standard should be up-to-date and meets the practice's requirements.
Types of Standard Operating Procedure
SOP documents can be simple, in a bullet points format, or complex with multiple pages with a variety of explanatory features that create step-by-step proceses for routine tasks. The formats here will help you whenever you plan to write standard operating procedure-
SOP checklists are not only simple to understand, but also a quick and easy way to document standard operating procedures. The checklist carries elements like a headline, name of the task, process as checklist items, and make sure that it reaches out to all the team members under focus. There are some predefined free SOP templates available online. You can even create customized SOP templates via Zipchecklist mobile apps. However, for the better checklist formats, you will need to pay to use and download the better ones. Checklists always highlight accountability, and leave clear digital audit trails. Marketing SOP checklists, Facilities checklist, Human Resources and Operations checklist, Training and development SIP checklist are some of the examples.
A step-by-step bullet list works similarly to checklists in that it describes a procedure in easy-to-follow steps. This SOP is best suited to simple tasks that don't call for a lot of explanation. This method breaks down a process into steps, each with its own numbering and instructions.
A hierarchical SOP breaks down corporate procedures from the top down.
Hierarchical-steps SOPs are useful for procedures that have multiple steps and regularly need complex decision-making. To draw a contrast with the step-by-step checklist format, hierarchical SOP will have steps written as 1a, 1b, and so on, whereas step-by-step checklist will have the process numbered as 1, 2 3.
The elements answer the questions why', what', who', how' as below-
- Policy- Defines the scope of a SOP, that also includes what's covered and lists down why' of the process.
- Procedures- The SOP document explains how to carry out a procedure and who is responsible for what. This is the "what" and "who" of a procedure.
- Recommendations- Provides additional guidance on how to meet quality requirements. This covers how' a procedure operates.
- Documentation- Establish a record-keeping system to ensure compliance with internal policies and industry regulations.
Flowchart-based SOP format is ideal for a process which can have several possible outcomes. You can use a flowchart format to outline and organize your activities and show the process from beginning to end. The steps are shown in boxes, with arrows pointing to the next one.
The Standard Operating Procedure is what makes your organization run smoothly and efficiently
This guide will help you understand how your SOP can become a powerful tool for your business
Why is a Standard Operating Procedure important?
Organizations that make an untied effort to achieve a goal are more likely to succeed. And in order for it to happen, they must collaborate on common goals, priorities, and protocols. It's critical that each department and division of the company improve their operations by establishing standard operating procedures.
SOP standards that have been carefully crafted improve productivity, safety, and quality control. Large organisations with a large number of employees require SOPs to ensure that processes are implemented in a consistent and seamless manner. Small businesses, on the other hand, also require to create SOPs in order to be efficient and productive. Standard operating procedures are critical for every stage and type of business to keep team members on the same page.
CREATING STURDY OPERATING MODEL:
A pre-pandemic study of 22 organizations across a variety of industries saw customer satisfaction and staff engagement up by up to 30%, Operational performance up by up to 50%, according to a study of 22 firms across a variety of industries.
Source- Mckinsey & Company
Challenges involved in developing a Standard Operating Procedure
While there are numerous advantages to developing SOPs inside your firm, it also has its share of drawbacks.
SOP creation happens in silos
It's critical that, when laying the framework for the formation of a SOP, inputs from all stakeholders are gathered and that no one is left out. Team members from various levels of the organization are occasionally absent from the process. Data is often fragmented by business function, department, and roles in many businesses. Before the SOPstandard is written and authorized, all components of it should be synchronized across the organization, and any wrinkles between different units or departments should be sorted out. Any type of controversy will erupt like a stumbling block, obstructing implementation. Many managers make the mistake of enabling company executives and outside consultants to guide the development of SOPs.
Lack of trust between the management and employees
An open and fair culture is significantly more conducive to positive outcomes. So, if employees harbour any kind of mistrust against the management prior to the start of the SOP process, the SOP may not take off as planned.
Resistance to change
Change is considered to be the only constant, yet it is also true that not everyone welcomes change with open arms. It is not uncommon for some employees to struggle to adjust to change. They may be comfortable with the status quo and see no reason to look for better options.
Lack of clear communication
Employees should be informed about the purpose of developing standard operating procedures even before they are required to provide feedback. They must understand that every bit of input they provide, no matter how insignificant, is valuable since they are the ones working on the ground. Things may not move forward without open feedback from employees and honest discussion about the need for a SOP.
SOP reviews that are inefficient
Time-consuming processes make it easy to put off revising procedures. It's critical to build a procedure for your SOPs to succeed if you want them to be successful.
Poor SOP Formatting
The use of the wrong SOP format or template, or use of verbose jargon can make it difficult to understand or even boring. No one wants to read a lengthy document filled with verbose vocabulary that makes one yawn within seconds.
Lack of accessibility and centralization of database
The SOPs should be accessible to all team members at all times. It's vital that everyone in the organization has access to the same SOP material. Without this accessibility and visibility, it's simple for SOP to fail, forcing team members to resort to outdated practices. Saving the document in a centralized database that is accessible to all stakeholders is the most effective way to ensure this.
Lack of adequate training and maintenance
Your team must be trained and equipped to carry out the operations in question. This means that they should have access to any equipment or other resources required to carry out the activities outlined in the SOP.As technology advances, staff changes, and a number of other things alter, your team may need to reevaluate previously written SOP. If the SOP that your team follows is outdated or outmoded in any way, following it will cause more harm than benefit to your company.
Zipchecklist can help you create SOPs quickly and easily, minus all the challenges.
WHAT HELPS COMPANIES UNLOCK FULL POTENTIAL?:
Source- McKinsey Quarterly, 2019
Standard Operating Procedure best practices
Here are some best practices for crafting a high-quality SOP manual for your organization-
Avoid jargon, have uniformity
SOPs must be understood by all employees. So, when writing your SOP manual, avoid using highly technical language or jargon. Make the instructions basic and straightforward, and stick to the same pattern throughout. Have uniformity in elements and design templates. Ensure that every SOP has the same fonts, graphics, spacing, and layout.
Accessibility and centralization of database
The SOPs should be accessible to all team members at all times. It's vital that everyone in the organization has access to the same SOP material. Saving the document in a centralized database that is accessible to all stakeholders is the most effective way to ensure this.
Develop a training plan
In order to follow proper procedures, employees must be aware of them. Organizations must take a proactive strategy by implementing training and retraining of team members on a regular basis in order to ensure compliance.
Have a review plan
You must evaluate and update your SOPs at least once a year to keep your operations current and efficient. An easy tool to avoid SOP challenges is Zipchecklist Features. Take a look.
Understanding the Standard Operating Procedure can be a challenge
Our SOP for Dummies guide will help you understand how each document works and how they all fit together
Who uses Standard Operating Procedures?
Any industry can benefit from SOPs. They are especially important for businesses that do repetitive tasks. While the SOP content varies by industry, the method of developing SOPs is fairly consistent. We list here three industries who are frequently using SOPs to streamline operational and management procedures-
SOPs, or Standard Operating Procedures are a set of guidelines that are used to standardize all of a restaurant's key operations. For example, to minimize foodborne diseases, front- and back-of-house team must take basic safety precautions while handling food items. These processes could include everything from hygienic food preparation flow, to restaurant upkeep, billing and payment, convenience for customers, menu creation, employee communication, equipment sanitization and many others. A couple of tools like kitchen deep cleaning checklist, safety inspection checklist, restaurant closing checklist, cleaning checklist template, bathroom checklist, can help you create a sturdy operation for your restaurant and industry operations.
Warehouse managers must continuously monitor shipment lines in order to ensure efficient inventory control and supply chain management. When team members follow the SOPs-as outlined, they can achieve quick delivery, high client satisfaction and brand reputation.
To provide customers with trustworthy, comfortable, and high-quality overnight lodgings, hotels adopt documented protocols. Preventive maintenance (PM) on HVAC systems, plumbing systems, lighting systems, lawns, and shared facilities is a normal operation for hotel maintenance workers. Employees in the guest services department adhere to business procedures for booking, check-in, and check-out.
Other businesses that use documented procedures include manufacturing, educational services, property management, oil and gas, healthcare, municipalities, and fleet management. Industries in the United States is responsible for adhering to OSHA's General Duty Clause, which mandates standard operating procedures for worker safety.
Benefits of Standard Operating Procedures
The SOPs bring numerous benefits to organizations across industries. SOPs that have been digitized show staff how to conduct procedures in real time, with efficiency and increased production.
Workplace safety- Written standard operating procedures (SOPs) that create the step-by-step instructions of a work process can help to reduce errors and promote health, safety and other working conditions.
Reduce wastage- Implementation of SOPs highlights any wastage taking place. For example, Lean Six Sigma, the operational system identifies eight forms of waste that decrease efficiency.
Simplifies regulatory requirements- SOP breaks down seemingly complex regulatory and corporate requirements into a simple process of compliance. A digital SOP format also creates audit trails for quality assurance.
Prevents knowledge loss-Standard operating procedures (SOPs) assist organizations in reducing knowledge loss as they capture knowledge and process documentation even if employees who had led the SOP creation no longer work with the organization. SOPs provide a baseline that assures quality is never compromised
Enhance accountability Digital SOPs add an added layer of accountability to business operations. One can monitor when and which employee access the assigned task orders in real time.
Improves employee training-Onboarding new employees and training of fresh hires become a seamless process with SOPs in place.
Reduce miscommunication - SOPs address safety concerns and rule out possibilities of miscommunication among team members
Streamline workflows-Standard procedures eliminate unnecessary steps that slow down production, increase efficiency by decreasing errors. The checklist format also helps organizations to evaluate performance of their processes like customer service or inventory management, manufacturing, teaching, etc.
Serve as a reference for re-creating operational systems within organizations.
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Example of Standard Operating Procedure
We bring you a standard operating procedure example here-
Hierarchal list for Sanitation & Food Safety Standard Operating Procedure Manual
Lip-smacking Creative Foods (Name of the organization)
Sanitation & Food Safety Standard Operating Procedure Manual
HACCP- Based Standard Operating Procedures
April 3, 2022
Table of Contents
1. Employee Sanitation Standards
A. Personal Hygiene
B. Hands Washing & Hand Washing Sink
C. Glove & Utensil Use When Handling Ready-to-Eat Foods
D. Contact with Blood & Bodily Fluids
E. Cuts, Burns or Lesions on Lower Arms or Hands
F. Employee Illness
2. Storage & Receiving
A. Standards for Receiving Food Central Foods Warehouse
B. FIFO (First In, First Out) Stock Rotation
C. Proper Training for Employees Who Store Food
D. Measuring Temperatures of Food Upon Receipt
E. FIFO (First In, First Out) Stock Rotation
F. Corrective Action for Cooler & Freezer Temperatures
3. Food Safety
A. Temperature Logs for the Serving Areas
B. Preventing Cross Contamination During Storage & Preparation
C. Unattended Food Transporting Food to Remote Sites (Satellite Kitchens)
D. Serving Food
E. Handling a Food Recall
4. Cleaning & Sanitation
A. Employee Training on Sanitation
B. Prevention of Vermin or Insect Infestation
C. Sanitation Inspections
D. Dish Room Standard Operating Procedures
D. Floor Maintenance
E. Cleaning & Sanitizing Food Contact Surfaces
The Standard Operating Procedure is the backbone of any organization, big or small, public or private
Our SOP for Dummies guide will help you understand how to use an SOP and how to develop one