How to Create a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)

Is your business running as efficiently as you’d like it to? Are you having a hard time identifying solutions to your problems? Does it feel like you have a lot on your plate to juggle? It would benefit you to create a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). Now, you may be asking yourself, “What is an SOP?” To simply put it, an SOP is a set of instructions that details all relevant steps of a procedure. It’s similar to a checklist made for the company to know how things are going to get done. So how do you create an SOP? Here are six essential steps that we’ve compiled to create one.

1. Identify The Subjects

First, you need to ask yourself what, who, and how. What tasks do you need to do? Who needs to do them? How can the company best approach these tasks? By laying out the foundation of your SOP, creating it will become more efficient for you. A great tip to help identify what you need to address is to refer back to the pain points, or the areas of difficulties, in your business. For example, a pain point in your company can be the payroll lagging behind.

2. Creating a Template

Once you’ve identified what you’re creating your SOP for, you need to determine how to measure the data. Think about the structure, processes, and types of assessment you would want in your procedure. By doing so, you can decide on what template you would like to use for your SOP. For bigger companies, it’s recommended to use the ISO 9000 structure template. It has an introduction, summary, lists of steps and checklists, and an overview. However, you can also decide to use a simple checklist, flow diagram, or a complex linear checklist. This step is completely up to your discretion on what you believe is best for your business, as well as what works for you.

3. Creating a Draft

Once the template has been decided on, you can begin working on the draft. By scheduling interviews with those you’ve identified in the first step that would be beneficial for the SOP, these will be your subject matter experts (SMEs). During the interview, gather documentation on the subject to collect information relevant to the SOP. If you have any documentation that is already available, put it into your SOP template before meeting with those that will help you in this process. It will help speed up the information gathering. 

4. Review Your Draft

Although you might be satisfied with your draft, there’s always room for improvement. No process is ever perfect the first time around. It’s important to remember that you want your SOP to be as detailed as possible. That’s why when you are reviewing the SOP, check to see if there are any gaps in the data and contact the SMEs to help you fill it in. Once you are satisfied with your SOP, run a risk assessment to ensure that this procedure will not hurt anyone or anything in the company. When you do this, you are also ensuring that the SOP works for your company.

5. Publish Your SOP

After reviewing your draft and running the risk assessments, you will publish your SOP throughout the company. The process of how and where the SOP will be distributed should have been discussed during the creation of your SOP. Typically this is done during the review process. Publishing your SOP will help everyone within the company understand the procedures you’ve put in place for that specific process, which in turn helps things run more smoothly.

6. Keep It Up To Date

Now that you have your new SOP, your company’s overall performance has improved. It may be easier to leave the SOP as it is because it already seems like it can’t be corrected any further, but SOPs are only useful as long as they are kept up to date. Without a periodic review of the SOPs, they can quickly become out-of-date, and you would have to start the process over again. A rule of thumb is to review your SOP at least every two years, though some need to be reviewed on a more frequent basis depending on how often the process is changed. Maintenance is of utmost importance in creating an SOP. 

Now that you are equipped with the right steps to create your SOP, you can begin identifying the processes that need to be altered. Remember, identify the subjects, create a template, create a draft, review your draft, publish your SOP, and keep it up to date. Follow these steps, and you’ll be set up for success.

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