How To Create Standard Operating Procedures
By Olga Murdoch, Agile Lead.
What are Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) used for?
Standard Operating Procedures are step-by-step instructions for how to execute a routine task. Well defined SOPs are essential for a process to run smoothly, consistently. By following the instructions every time, we can be confident in the outcome of the process and improve the experience of those involved by removing uncertainty and making it easier for them to engage.
Why should someone use them?
Using SOPs will help you to:
- Clarify the process
- Document the best way to get the job done
- Ensure operating consistency
- Expedite staff training
- Provide a baseline for improvement
- Ensure process improvements ‘stick’
Directions on how to use it
Step 1: Create a standardisation team
The team involved in creating a standardised process should include the people who are involved in the process – and, if appropriate, should include or report to the person who has the authority to approve and support the changes.
Step 2: Define your future-state process map
If multiple versions of the process exist, map them all out and figure out what works well and what doesn’t before you develop your standardised future-state. It is important to know where we are starting from first so we know what impact any changes will have to the people involved or any related processes. If the process does not yet exist, start developing the future-state map immediately. Test your future-state map using TIMWOODS to make sure you have a waste-free process.
Step 3: Identify risks which may occur at each process step
For each step in your new process, identify all the things that could go wrong. For each of these ‘failures’, identify all of the potential causes. For each cause, identify tests, procedures, or mechanisms you have or can put in place to detect if the cause has happened and/or prevent the cause from happening.
Step 4: Define the roles and responsibilities in the process
Rather than naming people as responsible for individual process steps, name roles which have responsibility for steps/parts of the process. In the absence of a specific individual, another person may take on this role with the support of your SOPs.
Step 5: Test the new process including checklists or other mistake proofing mechanisms for use in the process
Test the process to ensure it can accommodate the variation of inputs that will occur in practice. You can do this by running through the various scenarios that typically occur and by including stakeholders who will have different perspectives to offer.
Step 6: Communicate the standardised process to stakeholders
Once the standardised process has been finalised, create documentation (process map, roles and responsibilities, checklists, etc) for the process. Make sure the process has any approvals necessary and communicate the changes to relevant stakeholders – highlighting why this is of value to them. Provide training where necessary.
Step 7: Implement and use the standardised process
Use the new process consistently!
Step 8: Evaluate and improve the standardised process
After an appropriate period of time (e.g. to collect enough data), evaluate the performance of the process and improve as necessary.
Once you are up and running with your SOPs it will be very easy for you to spot opportunities for improved efficiency. Create a cycle of continuous improvement by consistently reviewing the performance of your processes and ensuring the SOPs are being adhered to – and that they are still fit for purpose.
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