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What is an SOP?

Recently I was working with a client on developing process documentation and technical instructions regarding the launch of a new system they were going to be using. Specifically, we were working on creating written instructions on how to create a login ID and set up a user profile as the process was varied depending on which group was accessing this new system.

Considering there were 4 different groups, all needing to take a slightly different path as part of the process, I suggested creating a one-page SOP, or Standard Operating Procedure document which each group could use as a quick reference guide.

This suggestion was met with both enthusiasm and confusion as the people I was working with had never created an SOP before, and in some cases, were not entirely sure what I mean. Regardless however, they (the client) was very excited at the prospect of having a one page guide.

Thinking about this conversation, I thought for this week I could provide a simple definition and benefits of using an SOP< and for next week will continue the conversation, focusing on things to consider when creating an SOP.

What is an SOP? An SOP, or Standard Operating Procedure provides instructions that are intended to document how to perform an activity or process by following specific steps, usually in chronological order.

The main benefit of using SOPs is to help maintain consistency and quality by enabling employees to complete a task by only following the approved steps and guidelines as determined by their organization. Standard Operating Procedures are also useful tools to communicate important company policies, regulations and best practices.

Many workplace processes require a strict adherence to a set of instructions to ensure the intended outcome occurs, and even the best employees don't have perfect memories, so having a set of written instructions they can refer to when performing the steps of the process ensures everything is done correctly.

When new employees are trained, standard operating procedures help keep their training fresh and serve as important reference tools. Copies of standard operating procedures should always be readily available and easy to access. This will help ensure that valuable time is not wasted looking up information.

As mentioned above, next week I will continue this discussion, focusing on creating a few different types of SOPs.

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