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What are SOPs and why are they important?

Published 2 June, 2021
Written by Tasbih Amin

Trust us, we’re not crazy about jargon and abbreviations either. When you hear the term SOPs you assume it’s something complicated, and you’re not entirely wrong.

Standard operating procedures (SOPs) are detailed documents of the processes a company has in place. The goal of SOPs is to allow an organization to get on the same page about every aspect of the business that relates to their position.

Documenting and updating your company’s SOPs is an essential undertaking. Most business owners know they need standard operating procedures but can’t ever seem to find the time to set things aside to start documenting. The reality is if you’re not making the documentation of your business practices a top priority, you’re setting yourself up to fail. That, or you’ll forever be the person on your team that has all the answers and no time to work on the things that you need to do.

So, how do you go about documenting your processes and where do you start? We’ll break it down for you with a simple example.

Remember when you were a kid and you needed your parents to drive you to your friend’s house so you logged onto mapquest.com and printed off the map directions? Yeah, we’re talking long before smartphones. The process in this case is the map, the visual representation of whereyou’re going. The 6 pages of the printed paper that follow are the standard operating procedures. The detailed turn-by-turn instructions were given to ensure you arrive at your friend’s house in style.

In this example, the process, in its simplest terms would look like this:

Ditto Processes

Simple, isn’t it? The SOP is a little bit more detailed, and would look something like this:

How to Drive to Your Friend's House

Purpose:

To get a ride to the party at your friend’s house. Ensure you’ve given yourself at least 30 minutes before the party begins. After all, you were tasked with bringing the chips and everyone knows the party can’t get started without the chips and dip.

Be sure to bring:

The chips, a jacket (it might be cold), your favourite CDs, and wear a cool outfit.

You'll need:

Your parent’s permission, a car to drive there.

Process:

  1. Get in the car (if the car is not available you could also walk but it would take longer.)
  2. Turn the car on and back out of the driveway (ensure the way is clear before proceeding.)
  3. Drive 3km East until you reach Hunt St.
  4. Make a right turn.
  5. Proceed for 1.5km until you see a fork in the road. Stay left onto Split St. (make sure you’re following the posted speed limit.)
  6. Etc.

Get the picture? Now, whenever you want to drive over to a friend’s place, you know what you need and what to expect.

Benefits of SOPs

SOPs ensure procedures are being completed to your high standards, while also keeping your company projects and budgets on track. One of the biggest benefits of SOPs is they allow you to create a schedule that is predictable and consistent.

Here are some of the benefits of adopting these practices:

Team alignment

>SOPs ensure all levels of your organization are following the same rules and keeping your business out of trouble.

Improved clarity

There’s no more guessing or assuming who is doing what. When processes are documented, you not only get the who and what, but you also can now establish the “how and when.

Duplicated work does not happen

When SOPs are documented properly, they should tell you which tools and resources are required to complete the task. They also provide information like where to find those tools, where to start, and what to do when you finish.

Increased team engagement

Teams that are aligned are generally happier than teams that are out of alignment. There is less stress on your team and frustrations are reduced.

Outputs are in line with industry standards

Benchmarking places a large role in the creation of processes. Not only are you creating an internal baseline for how you expect your team to carry out tasks, but you’re also creating a more efficient workplace and most likely seeing increased profits compared to your competitors.

Time of creativity and ideation

With customized SOPs for your company, you can reallocate valuable time to strategy, problem-solving, and creative thinking. All the necessary components for a company to thrive.

Creating SOPs allows you to start living the life of freedom you originally envisioned when you first started your business. The first step is the most daunting, but it’s an investment that will save you time, effort, and money.

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