SOP (standardized operating procedures)

The idea of a repeatable process can be very detailed and very important. The added benefits are much more obvious in some cases rather than others.

An SOP is a recipe for a process. Compared to a food recipe – it is the exact instructions for creating the

courtesy of

courtesy of

batter which, in turn, through a bunch of sub processes make a delightful cake. Add too many eggs, not enough mix, cook too long or not enough – you will get a result that you most likely do not want. The same concept can apply to any procedure. Lastly, on the food topic, consider a recent vacation that you were on. When it came time to  stop and eat did you grab a meal at a chain or at a ma-and-pa along the interstate? When you stopped at McDonald’s and ordered a Big Mac, did you know what it is going to taste like? If that was a guessing game they would not be boasting their quadrillionth one sold… Consider what driving on the road would be like if no standard procedures were established, or would you really want to have that surgery since every doctor performed it just a little bit different?

When you break a business down into segments you should have a process documented for each portion of the business. It is critical for a variety of reasons. The first that may come to mind is training. When a new person comes along they must be trained. We cannot rely strictly on tribal knowledge and word-of-mouth training or the process will evolve and that may not be for the better. Remember the game telephone? In addition, the not so visible benefits can be linked to staffing. If process X can be performed in a certain amount of time, and the other processes in Y, Z etc. amounts of time you can accurately determine how many people will be needed. With those figures available you can start to hold employees accountable and cut labor costs. If an employee was trained by the SOP and demonstrated that it is possible then if performance starts to slide both you and the employee have a common understanding of what is supposed to happen, and how long it should take.

With an SOP defined you can also start to remove waste from the process. Since it is performed the same way each time, by every operator, you will also be able to appropriately delegate tasks based on available staff, or level loading aka line balancing the processes. If you base your performance on a ‘should’ or an ‘I think’ than it will be harder to control costs. In addition, if a new process needs to take place, without having SOP’s the effect of a new process may have catastrophic impacts. You may find yourself firefighting lots of issues that you did not see coming due to impacts you were not aware of. With SOP’s clearly defined a business can add new steps to the process map, level the work load via available man hours, and redefine needed steps as the business changes, and finally training to the new procedure(s).



Filed under Business: General, Uncategorized

4 responses to “SOP (standardized operating procedures)

  1. Herspiring BIZness

    This was a very good read! I really like how you summed up SOP. It can be understood much easier this way. in my opinion.Thanks for this article!

    • Most welcome. SOP’s are very important. They are used in manufacturing as “common knowledge.” Retail would benefit from taking some of the positive points of manufacturing – but not all. Thanks for viewing!

  2. Pingback: Process Mapping – The Forest, the Trees, and the Roots | Lean Six Sigma for The Blue Economy

  3. Pingback: Who’s the in charge around here? (The RACI) | the business dude

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