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Adrian Mott | July 21, 2014

The Benefits and Challenges of Creating Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)


So, Who Needs a SOP?

Are SOPs a must-have for any business or company? Not necessarily. For many companies, especially those that work in creative industries, SOPs might stifle the very creativity that defines these companies and their products. The question when it comes to SOPs is how to strike a positive balance between including both procedure-based processes and allowing creativity to flourish when it needs to. Some companies, such as those in manufacturing, depend far more on established processes and procedures than creativity to be successful. As such, for them SOPs are not only critical,  but also much easier to adopt and maintain.

Marketing companies, on the other hand, depend heavily on the creative input of their team and are constantly bending to customer demands, which makes adoption of an SOP much more challenging. Even though creativity is vital to the success of a marketing company, any company that exists without a set of procedures and processes in place is essentially in a state of anarchy. Before long, serious problems will arise and the employees of the company will, without doubt, feel immense amounts of frustration with the lack of organization.

What’s the right Standard Operating Procedure for MY company?

Every company will need some kind of an SOP, and - ironically - they need to have a set of standards in place before the SOP can be implemented. Here are some “do's” and “don’ts” to consider before choosing an SOP for your company.

  • Include your employees in the conversation. The team of people responsible for doing the work in the company needs to be actively involved in choosing the SOPs procedures. They know what works and what doesn't, and they'll likely have their own ideas and input about changes they want to see within the company. Another plus to getting the team’s input is that it creates buy-in, or a sense of ownership within the company. If they’ve been given a say in which processes and procedures that company adopts, they feel more personally invested in the company’s performance and success.
  • Understand 'why' you're creating an SOP. Firstly, the procedures ensure that everyone on your team has discussed, and come to an agreement, on the best practices for your company. Secondly, your procedural documents make future onboarding, training and the transfer of tribal knowledge possible. New employees have a clearly articulated account of some of the most important processes and procedures within your company, created by the long-term employees who know your company best.
  • Include images, graphs, or other visual content. Because most people are visual learners, including these elements in your documented procedures will help ensure that each of your employees can visualize, memorize and understand what the document is trying to communicate.
  • Keep your tone positive. Simply telling your employees what to do and what not to do is not as effective as engaging them in the material they are attempting to learn. Make an effort to get your employees involved in the procedural content by communicating in a tone that isn't threatening or overbearing.
  • Routinely update your company’s SOP. Because there are always multiple potential changes that need to be made to the SOP, you can’t simply create it and then put it on a shelf. Your employees should have access to the SOP regularly and should feel comfortable making changes and addendums based on the changing needs of the company and themselves. Motivate your employees to see the SOP as an opportunity for their voices to be heard and their needs to be addressed.

Creating an SOP that is most relevant and beneficial to your business is the real secret here. Research and understand what your company needs, how your employees function and what procedures would ensure maximum productivity from each of them. 

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