The story of how I got into SOPs

“How do other managers assure the how-to knowledge is all quickly passed on and accessible at any time? If I had that ensured, it would free up so much of my time while providing the high quality we all want.” 

– Maria Casaramona, how.fm

When I first got the offer to manage a team, let us just say some years ago… I was super excited to start strategising. To finally be able to work on what I thought was essential and would impact the business! To mentor others to become who they wanted to be. I had no idea how much time I would have to spend training, clarifying, explaining. Then repeating what I told, making sure what I repeated was understood, re-checking it was (understood)… See where I am going? If you are a manager or business owner, you most probably know what I mean.

One day, a few years later, I was working away at my desk. One of the more senior team members was explaining one of our basic processes to a newbie. I am generally a very Laissez-faire leader, so I usually would just let them do. I don’t know why that day I happened to pay attention. And, oh my! The new person asked “Why?” and the answer was SO wrong! I was shocked!

That person was one of the most knowledgeable members of the team and had gotten something fundamental, totally wrong. My first instinct (not proud of it) was to think: “How stupid…” and then immediately realised: the fault was mine.

When someone you trained makes a mistake - guess whose fault is it (99% of the time)?

When that -now senior- team member had started, I was swamped with strategy planning and a critical business trip. I relied too much on letting them learn on their own and expect them to ask questions. It turns out, when a newbie sees a stressed-out boss, they don’t dare to ask questions. Probably a lot of you are thinking: yeah, shocker! I know. And I did offer help and time, but not for that specific process. I was so used to it; I never thought it was possible not to understand it.

After this day, I decided to set up a weekly stand-up meeting to discuss one of our most basic processes or concepts each time. The team loved it! Plus it helped me see who understood what, who didn’t and where we needed to dig deeper with training.

I also started to research a lot about how others do it. How do other managers assure the how-to knowledge is all quickly passed on and accessible at any time? If I had that ensured, it would free up so much of my time while providing the high quality we all want.

Then I discovered something called SOPs.

SOPs - a quick rundown

A standard operating procedure, an SOP, is a step-by-step set of written instructions that help people carry out complex routine tasks. Any person can achieve any repetitive duty with uniformity if they follow this set of instructions.

An SOP can equally relate to a policy in the way that it ascertains the actions, phases, and persons in charge of managing a process. But it is slightly more detailed and specific, and functions as guidance for team members.

With SOPs in place, workplace managers can try to attain efficiency and quality production, ensuring a reduction of miscommunication. And another plus is that there’s no failure to act following industry regulations. For instance, they can use an SOP explaining how to store raw or fresh food items that can quickly turn into a health hazard if not stored properly.

In simpler words, an SOP is like a graphic novel or a comic book. There are short steps along with clear images numbered 1, 2, 3, and so forth.

SOPs are, moreover, unique in how they save a lot of time from the extended training for employees. After the phases of training and onboarding, an SOP can perform a well-rounded introductory function for new employees by explaining their tasks and their sequences all over again. And these sets of instructions then provide an easily accessible go-to place to refresh their memory throughout their entire employee lifecycle. Having SOPs in place is like insurance in case of the departure of a highly-skilled member of the team. Someone new can transition smoothly, and work tasks can go on as usual without a break or a loss.

With an SOP guidebook in place, your employees have information about what to do and in exactly which way.

There are many templates for writing SOPs out there. We have done the work for you. We tested many to come up with an efficient & easy form.

Start participating in the power of using SOPs and use our free template to create them.

Why put an SOP in your life - or business?

For an organisation where employees perform multiple procedures on repetition, a quality check and assurance becomes imperative. It is crucial, for example, for a Café where there are baristas, kitchen assistants, servers, and managers each performing completely different sets of tasks.

Not only is it critical to supervise all the activities of your workplace. But it is also a complex and very time-consuming task for one person to execute alone. Here is where SOPs come in. They help reduce the variation among what your employees are doing. And even more, if they are easily available right where that particular task is taking place, not inside a folder inside a desk.

Another reason why we can’t do without SOPs is that the business owner or administrative officials cannot resolve every aspect of the company in the desired time-frame. Neither can they be concerned with all the intricate details of the business daily.

In this case, SOPs typically take over this task. The standardised documentation acts as the official word. Then, employees can consult an up-to-date standardised procedure manual to educate themselves about the changes in your business.

They assist employees in following the methods for all of the organisation’s most essential tasks accurately from using machinery to filing and documenting reports.

Additionally, if SOPs are available, anyone can execute rare procedures — not frequent procedures in an organisation, or maybe only for a few employees have to do them — without a glitch.

Keep SOPs flexible enough

Having an SOP does not mean that your instructions are set in stone. Through audits, you can observe your employees performing tasks and see where they variate from the standardised procedures. If any of the variations lead to better productivity for your workplace, you can revise your SOPs as well. Note that it is crucial to have clearly-defined procedures for every segment of a company’s functions and services. Even more for those that might influence the quality, safety or value of its goods or products.

As you can imagine, SOPs are of great importance to more prominent corporations too, such as the automotive or machine industries.

The best ambassadors for SOPs

Going back to a personal story now, I had a colleague that was a very picky eater. Whenever we were on a business trip, this person always wanted to grab a quick bite at one of the big fast-food chains we knew from home. Very sad for me that I am quite a foodie and love to try new foods. But my colleague loved it: it always tasted “exactly the same!”

And how does this relate to SOPs, you might ask? Well, a lot! It tasted “exactly the same” indeed because of an excellent system of SOPs.

SOPs are the basis of franchise businesses. Some of the best examples are from the largest fast-food restaurant chains. They craft these manuals in a very user-friendly way; employees are thankful to have them! Which, in turn, is a great way to integrate powerful selling points, and ensure employees carry them out perfectly. This documents also help these fast-food chains attain the status of the most in-demand franchises to acquire and manage. Because of how straight forward their instructions for potential buyers and employees are, it is easy to replicate the success.

Some of the selling points of using SOPs in the franchise business are:

  • Detailed descriptions of how to place ingredients: employees are not clueless or confused while going through the complicated (and pricey) procedure of preparing food.
  • Support to new franchise owners: from the application stage to when the franchise opens.
  • Step-by-step instructions for locations: how to create an atmosphere that customers love, such as detailing the layout and design of the furniture and interior in the restaurants.

All in all, learning from very successful companies and using SOPs in our business and teams:

Saves time

Provides consistency

Saves money

 The manager or senior employees don’t need to spend time onboarding and training others, or explaining the same over and over.

Employees feel more secure carrying out their tasks and know how to achieve the desired results.

Reduce the wasted money because of the time saved and the immensely reduced amount of mistakes.

SOPs in my life

For me, starting to use SOPs meant I could finally focus on strategy and actions that had a genuine impact on the business.

And a bit surprisingly for me, it also improved my relationship with my team members. The time we spent together now was not frustrating, repetitive and boring. It was spent on mentoring and coaching them to become who they wanted to be.