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How to write a Standard Operation Procedure

SOP

Every competitive company is always in search of the so-called total quality, obtained with the due monitoring and continuous improvement of its products and services. In this search, it is important to establish mechanisms to control the processes so that the business continues to have satisfactory results even in the case of some kind of unforeseen event – like a change in the team or the eventual absence of an employee.

Within this context, one of the main process control and management tools is the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). In this post we will present the main tips on how to write this document and get great results.

After all, what is SOP?

SOP is nothing more than a document that sets out in detail the details of a process. It lists aspects such as: sequence of procedures, materials used, care to be observed, responsible for each step and relevant information for the task to be performed within the expected standard.

What is the goal of a SOP?

The main objective of a Standard Operating Procedure, as the name itself is to standardize the performance of a process. Thus, it makes it possible to minimize errors, deviations and variations. With SOP, it becomes much easier to guarantee the quality of the procedure, whatever it may be. In addition to being immensely clear in understanding the work itself, it provides the company with more operational security and efficiency.

Why to standardize?

Imagine that the employee responsible for a certain task had to leave unexpectedly. The company certainly has other employees trained to perform it, but who never performed the procedure on a daily basis. If the company does not have a SOP in relation to that task, it may be facing a drama or a good loss. However, with a detailed Standard Operating Procedure, the replacement will be done without any major problems. Each step will be properly described, as a guide for the substitute to follow.

In short, SOP has very significant benefits for the company:

Cost reduction: By ensuring that tasks are performed in the same way saves the time of the employees involved and financial resources.

Improves internal communication: Regardless of which employee is performing the task, the process will always be the same. This makes it possible to improve communication within the company, since employees no longer need to guess the best way to complete the task.

Implement quality control: SOP can help minimize errors in your product or service that directly affect the consumer. Practice simplifies the process so there is no doubt about how it should be produced. It also establishes consistency in your service or commercial product. And consistency is the keyword for customer satisfaction.

What elements make up a SOP?

A SOP is mainly composed of the following elements:

  • Procedure name;
  • Place of application;
  • Responsible for the task listed by positions and not by names, as these can change over time;
  • Responsible for preparing the POP;
  • Materials involved in the task;
  • Reference documentation, such as manuals, status, security guides, and so on;
  • Acronyms properly described;
  • Step by step of the procedure, including steps and sequence of performance, in addition to the appointment of those responsible for each step;
  • Graphs and flowcharts, in the case of tasks with a high degree of complexity;
  • Review perspective, that is, within which period the SOP will need to be reviewed – which must be done at least annually.

How to write a SOP

  1. Define responsible persons: The first step is to involve the current persons responsible for the procedure in this elaboration, since they are the ones who know the task in depth and can point out their particularities;
  2. Working group: Then form a working group to formulate the SOP;
  3. Describe steps: Describe all steps of the procedure, including time required or intended for compliance, materials required for its execution and the respective expected results;
  4. Think about the critical steps: Highlight the critical steps, that is, those that, if not fulfilled or unsatisfactorily fulfilled, can compromise the overall result of the procedure;
  5. Analyze routines: Predict a check routine, with a series of questions to be asked to verify that the task or procedure was performed properly;
  6. Organize documents: Then organize your document, so that it includes all the formal elements listed in the previous topic.

Do you need to take other precautions?

Pay attention to the language used, which must be as clear and objective as possible, in order to be understandable by all levels involved in the task. If necessary, include graphs or flowcharts, as long as it is to make the report even more transparent.

Beware of revisions in the document. There are still companies without document management software, or with old systems, that end up allowing old versions of documents to remain scattered throughout the company. If you don’t have a suitable document system, try Documents.

And last but definitely not least, never copy the procedures of other companies. That’s because they just may not apply to your reality! Taking inspiration from the structure of other SOPs is valid, but it is essential to observe the particularities of your own company’s processes.

The establishment of a good Standard Operating Procedure can be the difference between obtaining mediocre results or excellent results. A well-written and detailed SOP guarantees the safety and quality of the processes. This helps the company to better deal with any kind of unforeseen circumstances and changes.

 

 

Man photo created by pressfoto – www.freepik.com

Read more about: quality management, SOP.
Thatiana Sestrem

Journalist

August 12, 2020

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