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Incorporating SOPs

(May 2011) posted on Tue May 10, 2011

Using standard operating procedures to better your business.

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By Marty McGhie

In beginning the SOP process, there are a few key aspects to consider if you want the program to be successful. First, you must (and I repeat, must) document all SOPs in written form. You can do so electronically or via hard copy or, even better, both. The point is: Get them documented in a formal way. As you record the SOPs, make sure they’re branded with your company look so they appear to be official corporate documents. All of our SOPs, for instance, carry the Ferrari Color brand/logo so they resemble a document that might be sent out to a customer or a vendor. The benefit here is that your employees will treat them much more seriously if they are official company documents.

Second, it’s critical that your SOPs are accessible to all employees. If your SOPs aren’t available for use, they will never do you or any employee any good at all. Many companies spend countless resources establishing full standard operating procedures, document them, and then put them on a shelf somewhere never to be used again. Make sure they’re available for your managers and your employees to use regularly. For example, in our company we’re in the process of creating an SOP database with all the SOPs cataloged into departments and cross referenced to related SOPs. Allow employees to access not only their own department’s SOP, but the SOPs established by other departments, as well – this will help generate ideas and open doors to discussions regarding what’s working and what’s not.

The success of your SOP program will depend primarily upon your ability to train and implement the SOPs that you establish. Making them available, as I’ve indicated, is important. But it’s more essential to establish a program of training, implementation, follow up, and retraining. As soon as you develop the first SOP in a department, avoid working on any others before you train the employees on that particular SOP.

A scenario trio
Obviously, an SOP program will not cure all of the problems in your shop. Mistakes will still happen. So what should you do when something goes wrong under an SOP program? Ask yourself three questions: