What is an SOP? How to Create Your First SOP From Scratch

Wondering how to make your business more efficient? The need for efficient procedures and predictable outcomes are essential for delivering quality work. SOPs are a practical solution to improve your workflow. Although it may sound like a complicated and looming acronym, SOP creation and implementation is quite simple and ends with invaluable results. 

What is an SOP?

An SOP is a standard operating procedure used to guide specific tasks in your business. SOPs are invaluable assets with endless applications for your business. The simplicity and benefits of SOPs are what make them worthwhile for organizations. The purpose of these documents is to result in consistent results and streamline your business. This article explains the host of benefits SOPs can deliver to your business. 

Types of SOP Formats

The SOP format you use will depend on the type of SOP you are creating. Consider the logical order of the task, the number of instructions, and the outcomes resulting from the steps you take. What is the best way to visualize and explain this information? The three most common SOP formats are step-by-step, hierarchical, and flowcharts. 

Step-by-Step

  • Lists out instructions for each stage of the operating process in a bullet point format.
  • Useful for brief procedures with set rules and one outcome.

Hierarchical

  • Similar to the step-by-step format, but provides additional information for the steps. 
  • It can appear as a bulleted list with subtopics under specific process steps.
  • Useful for processes that require more in-depth information but are still straightforward. 

Flowchart

  • Flowcharts depict a visual map of the operating process using boxes, lines, and conditional formatting.
  • Useful when processes have more than one outcome, or the operator can take several different actions. 

How to Create an SOP

Not every SOP follows the same creation process. Below is a general outline for creating SOPs, but some procedures may require several rounds of this process to be considered complete. 

1. Identify the task, make a goal, collect information, and create a list of processes.

When creating an SOP, identify an achievable goal or result to accompany the process. Consult the people who complete this task regularly and ask how they conduct it. After collecting information, list out each step that the process requires. It doesn’t have to be organized yet, but a general outline helps to visualize the best format for the SOP. Include other resources, templates, or platforms if needed. 

2. Format the SOP.

Using the information collected, assemble a general outline of the SOP. Include communication expectations and timelines. After creating the outline, choose the best SOP format that structures the task in the most precise way possible. Try visualizing the SOP in different designs to see the best way to communicate the information. This insight will inform you if the information given is too much or too little. Once you have a chosen format, built on your outline, and created the final draft, you’re ready to finalize the document.

3. Review the SOP.

Once you have a complete SOP, bring it in for the first round of reviews. Receive input and feedback about possible improvements or changes from people in different positions. Ask the reviewers if the SOP aligns with the intended goal and what they would change to improve the instructional flow. Once you’ve received feedback, make the adjustments and changes suggested. Continue to review, edit, and ask others to review until you have a clear SOP that aligns with the goal and gets approval from the people who use it.

4. Pilot the SOP.

After you have a completed and peer-reviewed SOP, conduct a pilot phase to assess the SOP’s effectiveness. Base the pilot timeline on the volume of work the SOP requires. I suggest the timeline should range between a few weeks to months, depending on the required tasks. Ensure the timeline is enough to collect SOP data comparable to the prior procedure. Collect this data and feedback from day one to measure attitude changes and assess quantitative effectiveness. 

5. Analyze Results of the SOP and Make Improvements.

Following the SOP pilot run, aggregate the data collected and create a report highlighting the SOP’s performance. Include if the SOP aligned with its goal, employee reactions, and if it was effective. Ensure this report is peer-reviewed and edited to avoid potential biases. 

From here, make changes that would make the SOP more effective using data and feedback. Continue to edit and change the SOP until it meets its goal and users agree it is clear and helpful. If the SOP creates negative changes or users are resistant to using it, either restart the process or scratch the SOP altogether. Without organizational support, the SOP will be unsuccessful. 

6. Implement the SOP.

When the SOP has completed final revisions and aligns with its goal, implement it into the organization. Continue to collect user feedback and revisit its impact on your business. 

Although SOPs can be a time-consuming process, the outcomes justify the time and effort that goes into them. Well-designed SOPs improve business performance and create quality, cohesive work. If an SOP system is exactly what your business needs, contact me today to work together on creating an efficient and customized SOP. Together, we can develop, review, and analyze the SOP and its impact on your business. 

About Wildly Creative Studio

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