Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are the documented processes that an organization has consisting of a step-by-step instructions to help the employees within its organization to carry out its routine operations and to achieve efficiency, quality output & uniformity of performance while reducing miscommunication and time.
Implementation of SOP may be a challenging task for an organization. In this article, we’ll discuss about various aspects of how to tackle this challenging task of SOP implementation.
II. Implementation of SOP:
Determine the purpose:
Before the implementation of SOP, it is very essential to determine the purpose of your SOPs. Put simply, think about what you’re trying to accomplish. Normally, SOPs are created so as to achieve the following:
a. Achieving consistent results
b. Reduction in time-wastage
c. Improving the quality
d. Providing training to new employees
By determining the purpose, an organization comes to know what exactly you’re striving towards before you begin. In this manner, check the results against the goals set while help in order to align with your company’s objectives.
ii. Determine the process:
Process means a series of actions that one does for a particular purpose. Normally, before implementation, an organization needs to determine appropriate time to implement a SOP. There may arise a need for implementation of SOP under the following instances:
a. Overhauling of the entire team
b. New system is planned & to be implemented
c. New division to be started in your organization
Normally, it is not advisable to have SOP implementation when you have just started on with your business as there will be transformations happening initially and a clear understanding about the processes would be lacking in the initial stage.
The organization should itself evaluate that for a particular process will it be effective & beneficial to implement the SOP. Generally, SOPs are best for routine or repetitive tasks.
Along with determining the process, you also need to determine the scope for each task as there is a possibility that some are short procedures whereas others may involve more complex procedures and hence, multiple steps & sub-steps may have to be implemented. Also, SOPs are to be created and implemented with the intention of planning for the future, i.e., forward looking approach.
iii. Finding the Appropriate Team:
For proper implementation of SOP, determining the appropriate team is equally important as knowing what procedures need SOP.
The right team for this activity must have:
a. Knowledge about the nature of organization, its activities & departments along with the roles & responsibilities of each division.
b. Knowledge about the process in detail and try to assess potential problems in the process.
It is advisable to train the SOP implementer team so that the implementation of SOP will be more effective and smooth.
Get input from the relevant SPOC or authority in charge for each activity:First of all, you need to get the input from the relevant SPOC about what exactly needs to be done for each task. Doing this will not only make sure you get some expert input on what to include in each step, but it can also truly make the purpose of SOP implementation fruitful.
It is advisable to write the rough drafts of your processes. Afterward, you can easily edit them, so they conform to a standard format.
Define your audience:
SOPs are for the audience and this is one of the crucial point to be considered while implementing SOPs. The steps, directions & instructions in your SOPs should be clear, precise & understandable to the audience who shall use the SOP. To that end, it’s worth taking the time to hash out what your audience needs from your procedures. Some factors to consider here include:
a. Technical Skills- What do they already know? What are the additional skills for which training needs to be done?
b. Job Description-Are the tasks within the scope of the end user’s job duties?
c. Current Practices followed- Are there practices or habits that need to change as a result of using the SOP?
d. Breadth of the audience-Will you need to account for different departments and skillsets?
Not only the above factors to be considered but also you should also revisit them after drafting them to make sure they are user friendly.
vi. Components of SOP:
With the right input from the team, next crucial step is to include the necessary components in your SOP such as:
a. Detailed steps needed to perform a particular task
b. Required skills
c. Number of people needed to complete
d. Relevant regulations or standards
e. Benchmarking with the best practices followed in the industry
These will provide the skeleton for your standard operating procedures.
vii. Format of SOP:
Format of SOP is one of the important element in readability for end users. When they know what to expect and are familiar with how the content hierarchy in your documents is presented, your readers can scan and read future documents more quickly and easily.
The right format to use in creating an SOP depends on the procedure’s complexity. In general, you’ll have three types to choose from:
a. Standard – A short list of steps to follow, best for straightforward procedures.
b. Hierarchical – Steps (1, 2, 3) with sub-steps (1a, 1b, 1c) for more complex procedures.
c. Hybrid/Flowchart – Steps with different paths for decisions, “if-then” statements, etc.
It’s also worth determining whether you’ll need diagrams or pictures to go along with the procedure outline. In some cases, they may not be necessary, but more complex procedures certainly benefit from having some visual aids attached.
viii. Write the Procedure:
With the information in hand, it will be time to create a draft of the procedure. While writing the SOP, you might use the following:
a. Skills required
b. Number of personnel needed
c. Time needed to complete
d. Recommended frequency for completing the task.
e. Steps to follow
f. Space for feedback.
ix. Review Procedures:
When you have your procedures written out, it’s time to review them. Have personnel at all levels review them to make sure the procedures align with your objectives. It’s also strongly recommended that you put them through a testing phase in which your technicians will use them and offer feedback. Once the review process is over, make the relevant changes and publish your SOPs.
Also, top management needs to review whether employees within its organization are adhering to the SOPs regularly and should also appoint an independent auditor to report periodically.
x. Training, monitoring & update:
SOPs once finalized post testing, needs to be communicated with the relevant persons of the organization along with appropriate training to the staff. Without that training, your organization will likely just ignore them, defaulting instead to prior ways of doing things. Your training is not only to make sure your staff knows how to follow your procedures, but also to help get more buy-in. Instruction should focus on why your SOPs are important, what you hope to accomplish, and how they make your organizations’ lives easier.
After training your staff and implementing your SOPs, make the effort to monitor the results. Keep track of how they’re used in the field, make note of any updates to training you might need, and most importantly, check to see if the procedures need to be adjusted to better achieve your goals.
This process of monitoring your success and updating your procedures is central to the principle of continuous improvement, and it’s likely something you’ll need to keep doing year after year.
It is very much true that standardizing your processes through SOPs can be very effective and helpful to your organization. Implementing standard operating procedures in your team is a process that requires careful planning as well as input from everyone involved. When implemented correctly, SOPs can improve reliability and efficiency in your organization and in their purest form support the right people in the right environment.
In case you would like to know how can will your organization benefit from a SOP and how to implement a SOP, you can reach us on our below mentioned e-mail ID.
CA Aakash Mehta
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Associate Consultant, MASD
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