When you are a new hire at a company, one of the first things you are likely to be given is a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) document at your employee onboarding.
Having an up-to-date SOP can help ensure that tasks are completed consistently and efficiently, regardless of who is completing them.
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What is a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)?
A Standard Operating Procedure, or SOP, is a set of written instructions that outlines the steps necessary to complete a task. SOPs are used in various workplaces, from hospitals to restaurants. They can help ensure that tasks are completed consistently and efficiently, and often set standards for health and safety. They are also effective training materials for new employees.
For example, if you are responsible for ordering office supplies, your SOP might specify the type of supplies to order, the supplier to use, and the business process for submitting the order. Having this process documentation can help avoid confusion and ensure that the order is placed quickly and accurately.
What are the benefits of a Standard Operating Procedure?
1. Consistent, quality results — when everyone in your organization follows the same set of steps, you can be sure that the end product will be of consistently high quality. This is especially important for organizations with multiple branches or locations.
2. Keeps your business organized — a well-organized business is a successful business. By having written SOPs, you can make sure that everyone in your organization knows where everything is and what they need to do to complete their tasks. This will help keep your business running smoothly and prevent chaos from ensuing. Additionally, having an organized set of SOPs can make managing projects easier.
3. Improved communication among team members — if everyone is following the same steps, it becomes much easier for team members to communicate with each other about what needs to be done and how it should be done. This will lead to better teamwork and more efficient workflow.
4. Saves time and money — when you streamline your processes, you can save yourself time and money in the long run. Having written SOPs makes it easy for new hires to learn internal processes quickly, and it also cuts down mistakes caused by inconsistency.
What are the elements of a Standard Operating Procedure?
1. Purpose: The purpose of a Standard Operating Procedure is to provide a framework for how a specific task will be carried out. This helps to ensure that everyone involved in the task knows what is expected of them and that the task is carried out consistently.
2. Procedures: The procedures section of a Standard Operating Procedure should outline the step-by-step process for completing the task. This should include who is responsible for each step and what the expected outcome should be.
3. Scope: The scope of an SOP document should identify the boundaries within which the procedure can be used. For example, if you are writing a procedure for baking cookies, the scope may identify that the procedure can only be used for baking chocolate chip cookies.
4. Responsibilities: The responsibilities section of a Standard Operating Procedure should identify who is responsible for each step of the procedure and what they are responsible for achieving.
5. Accountability Measurements: The accountability measurements section of a Standard Operating Procedure should identify how success or failure will be measured and what corrective action will be taken if results are not as desired.
Continue reading to see SOP examples and learn how to write your own.
How to Write an SOP
Step 1: Define Purpose
A Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) defines the specific steps that must be taken to complete a task. The purpose of an SOP is to ensure that everyone who completes the task follows the same steps, resulting in a consistent outcome.
Step 2: Choose an SOP Format or Template
There are many formats and templates for writing Standard Operating Procedures. Some common formats are listed below:
- Task-based format: This format is best suited for procedures that involve a specific task, such as how to make a cake. The steps are listed in chronological order, starting with the beginning of the task and ending with the completion of the task.
- Objectives-based format: This format is best suited for procedures that have multiple tasks or steps, such as how to change a tire. The objectives of the procedure are listed, followed by a list of tasks with associated steps.
- Checklist format: This format is best suited for procedures that have a finite number of steps, such as how to check the engine oil level. The steps of the procedure are listed as a checklist, with each step including one or more checkboxes to indicate that the step has been completed.
- Flowchart format: This format is best suited for procedures with multiple tasks or steps that involve decision points, such as how to troubleshoot an issue. The flowchart illustrates the sequence of tasks and decisions, with associated arrows indicating the flow of control.
When choosing a format or template, consider who will be completing specific procedures and what type of procedure it is. Some formats and templates are better suited for certain types of procedures than others.
Step 3: Determine the Audience
The audience for a Standard Operating Procedure can vary depending on the type of procedure and the organization’s structure. For example, an SOP for a manufacturing process may be written for employees who work in the production area, while an SOP for customer service may be written for frontline employees who provide customer support. When determining the audience for an SOP, consider factors such as job title, level of experience, and knowledge level.
Step 4: Define the Scope
The scope of a Standard Operating Procedure defines which tasks or activities are included in the procedure. When defining the scope, consider factors such as which departments or teams will use SOPs, what resources are needed to complete the task and any restrictions or constraints that apply.
Step 5: Develop SOP
Once you have defined the purpose, audience, and scope of a procedure, it’s time to start developing the actual SOP. The first step is to gather all necessary information and compile it into a single document. This may include text instructions, images, videos, or other supporting materials. Once all of the information is gathered, it needs to be organized into a logical sequence and formatted according to the chosen template.
Step 6: Review, Get Feedback, and Edit
After the initial draft of a new SOP is created, it needs to be reviewed by someone else for accuracy and completeness. This may include department managers, subject matter experts, or other stakeholders who will be using the procedure. After feedback has been incorporated into the document, it needs to be edited again for grammar and style before being finalized.
Step 7: Implement
Once an SOP is finalized, it needs to be implemented by department managers or team leads who will be responsible for ensuring that everyone who needs access to it has access to it. Training may also need to be provided to employees who will be using the procedure so they understand how to follow it correctly
Standard Operating Procedure Templates
1. The Assist
The Assist’s 2-page, easily downloadable Business SOP Template is designed for scaling your business.
Where to get this free SOP Template: The Assist Standard Operating Procedure Template.
If you’re looking for a way to jumpstart your SOP document creation, check out this template to help you standardize the way your team records internal processes.
Where to get this free SOP Template: Safety Culture Standard Operating Procedure Template.
If you’re looking for a way to jumpstart your SOP document creation, check out this template to help you standardize the way your team records internal processes and work management.
Where to get this free SOP Template: Guru Standard Operating Procedure Template.
4. Maintain X
Maintaining X’s 4 industry-specific SOP templates provide a useful starting point to draft SOPs from scratch.
Where to get this free SOP Template: Maintain X Standard Operating Procedure Template.
Smartsheet’s 9 industry-specific SOP Templates in Word format to help streamline and standardize your efforts.
Where to get this free SOP Template: Smartsheet Standard Operating Procedure Template.
People Also Ask These Questions About Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)
Q: Why should I create an SOP?
- A: There are many reasons why you should create an SOP. Some of the most important reasons are to ensure that your employees have the know-how to complete tasks the same way every time, to document how tasks are completed so that they can be repeated or taught to new employees, and to ensure compliance with safety and regulatory requirements. By creating these procedure documents, you can minimize variability and ensure that your workplace is running as efficiently as possible.
Q: Is having an SOP important?
- A: Yes, having an SOP is important. Having an SOP helps ensure that everyone responsible for completing a task or process knows what is expected of them and how to do it properly. This can help with troubleshooting errors and quality control, productivity, and improve efficiency. Also, having SOPs in place when onboarding a remote employee can eliminate extra questions and make the training and transition as smooth as possible.
Q: Who creates the SOP in a company?
- A: The SOP is typically created by a team of individuals in a company, depending on the size and complexity of the company. The team may include individuals from different departments affected by the procedure.
Q: How long should an SOP be?
- A: There is no definitive answer to this question as the length of an SOP will vary depending on the complexity of the procedure and the amount of detail included. However, a general rule of thumb is to keep SOPs concise and to the point, with no more than a few pages of text. Any information that is not essential to understanding the procedure can be included in an appendix.
Q: Is an SOP a legal document?
- A: An SOP is not a legal document, but it can be helpful to have one in case of an emergency or when you need to prove that you followed a specific process.