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Guidance for preparing Standard Operating Procedures

Standard Operating Procedures

Every company needs a set of guidelines to direct its members. For this reason, standard operating procedures (SOPs) are formed. In order to maintain organisational operations quality and consistency in the chaos of daily labour, SOPs are a crucial component of any firm. Profitable companies in various industries have used SOP to increase corporate efficiency and safety. An organisation that operates in a regulated environment can benefit from SOPs. It may be complicated for some businesses due to its technical jargon and lengthy instructions, making it less effective. But, if followed correctly, SOPs can shield a company from disaster. 

What are Standard Operation Procedures?

An organisation’s standard operating procedures are a collection of written instructions on how to correctly carry out significant, routine, or repetitive tasks or operations. They outline the procedures that should be followed in order to support data quality and promote adherence to technical and quality system criteria.

SOPs help the organisation. They are designed to maintain quality assurance and quality control processes because they are often tailored to that organisation. They aid firms in maintaining consistency in the integrity of the goods and services they provide, as well as compliance with legal requirements. Standard operating procedures record every action taken in relation to data quality, a quality management system[1], and constant adherence to technical and programmatic operations such as procedures for calibrating, utilising, and maintaining equipment.

Guidance to Write Standard Operating Procedures 

Whatever industry you are in, having transparent SOP papers can help your staff understand how to carry out routine tasks in a safe, legal, and consistent manner, regardless of who completes the assignment. You cannot learn to write a standard operating procedure from an official SOP. But, there are measures you may take to arrange your ideas and select the best course for standardising your processes. Standard Operating Procedures should be in a step-by-step and easy-to-read format. The material in the SOP shouldn’t be incredibly complicated and unambiguous. The documentation should use the present tense and active voice, and it shouldn’t be redundant, excessively long, or wordy. The information should be directly communicated and plainly to eliminate any ambiguity regarding what is necessary. Processes can be explained using flowcharts and graphics. Maintaining your company’s style guide is also essential, for example, regarding margin and font size.

  1. List the processes that need to be documented:
    Finding the tasks, procedures, or workflows you need to establish guidelines is the first step. Ask a process specialist or a specific employee what tasks they perform on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis that are nearly identical. In this situation, if speaking with them proves challenging, you can also gather the relevant data via a survey. You can then identify the procedures that need to be standardised using this list as a guide. If updating a current SOP is required, have someone with the necessary education and expertise review and make any necessary improvements.
  2. Describe the goal
    Then, decide why you are writing the SOP paper. Is it to ensure that business priorities are met by the processes? or to guarantee that procedures are effective? You can structure the standard operating procedures more skilfully if you know why you’re writing them. Determine what modifications need to be made to an existing SOP in order to make it more effective by identifying the problems or barriers in your procedures that are creating delays and failures.
  3. Choose a format
    It’s likely that your business already has some SOP documentation from earlier times when performing different procedures. Use those documents as models for your preferred formatting conventions.
    Try one of these options if you don’t have any documents to use as references:
    • A simple format for routine operations that are brief and simple to understand uses this structure. This type of format is typically a numbered or bulleted list with short, simple sentences that are obvious and easy for the reader to follow, in addition to safety recommendations and other required documents.
    • Use a hierarchical stages structure if your procedures entail plenty of decision-making during the many steps. Typically, there is a list of primary steps with bullets or numbers, followed by a list of particular sub steps.
    • Employ a flowchart to map out and organise processes that involve a variety of potential outcomes. When the outcomes are unpredictable, this is a wise decision.
  4. Gather input
    Get the team to come together and discuss how they believe the task should be completed. Since you’ll be counting on them to follow the SOP, you should make sure it makes sense to them and that all the essential responsibilities are covered. Make sure to encourage your team to see the drafts so they may offer more comments. There will be numerous drafts and critiques.
  5.  Identify the scope
    Your SOP could require assistance from teams and SOPs from other departments to be effectively completed. Check if mentioning those different processes is enough or if the present standard operating procedure paper already needs to include them. Think about outlining dependencies and responsible parties with a flowchart or a map.
  6. Choose your audience
    Understanding your audience can help you choose the best writing style for your SOP paper. Think about these issues:
    • What prior knowledge do they possess? Do they already understand how things work and how things are done? Do they already understand the terms? Have they grown stale and require a refresher? You must adapt your writing to the level of your readership. They won’t be interested in your information if it is too simple. If you make it too difficult, you run the risk of confusing them and having them implement the SOP incorrectly.
    • How well-versed in language are they? It’s possible that your audience doesn’t speak your language at home. If so, you should use more images rather than words.
    • Are they new workers? Your SOP documents must be comprehensive and training-focused when onboarding new employees. No matter who completes a task, you want to ensure consistent results.
    • How many people are in your audience? Will the material be read by several persons in various roles from various organisations? If so, be sure to specify who or what role is responsible for each task while writing the processes. It clarifies to your audience where each person fits into the process and why their individual role is crucial.
  7. Prepare the SOP
    Consider including some of the following components in your standard operating procedures when you write a draft of it:
    Title page– This page contains the following:
    • The title of the procedure
    • An SOP reference number
    • Date of publication or revision
    • The title of the position, company, division, or agency to which the SOP applies. 
    • The names and signatures of the individuals who created and authorised the SOP’s detailed processes
      Table of contents – A table of contents is only necessary if the text is lengthy and contains numerous pages. Certain document sections can be easily accessed directly with the table of contents.
      The specific procedures – This section of the paper, which makes up the majority of it, contains the precise, step-by-step instructions that must be followed to adhere to company standards and safety requirements properly. This section might also contain the following:
    • An explanation of the SOP’s objectives, boundaries, application Standards, legal criteria, job descriptions, duties, and inputs and outputs are all acceptable inclusions.
    • Necessary and supplemental information is required to complete each stage. Address necessary choices, potential blockers, safety issues, and any other “what if” scenarios that may arise.
    • Clarify terminology, including abbreviations and expressions that your readers might not be familiar with.
    • Warnings for health and safety. These cautions must be included in a distinct section and used with the appropriate process steps.
    • A comprehensive list of all necessary tools and supplies and information on where to find them and when they’ll be needed.
    • A section on troubleshooting will be included to discuss potential problems, what the reader should look for, and potential obstacles to the intended result.
  8. The stage of testing and reviewing 
    Once your standard operating procedure document has been written:
    • Team members should get a draft of the SOP for review. Request that they make grammatical and technical corrections.
    • To ensure you get the intended result, test the document independently.
    • Test the procedures with other team members to make sure they follow the instructions and are clear and straightforward to understand.
    • Add pertinent alterations and recommendations to strengthen the document.
    • Continue doing this until all parties involved have authorised and accepted the document.
    • Execute the SOP. Make it simple to obtain for those who require it to perform their duties.
    • Every six to twelve months, or as needed, you should evaluate the SOP to find areas where it may be strengthened and to account for any adjustments made to existing practices.
  9. Train Your End-Users
    No matter how skilled or knowledgeable the members of your current team are, they will need to be trained (and retrained) in the new SOP that will be put into place. Of course, this can be tricky, especially for long-term workers who are used to performing duties in a certain way and may still need to recognise the advantages of changing their methods. 
  10. Revisiting and Updating the SOP
    The last stage of the process is to implement the new SOP fully. Because best practices in a particular situation are continually changing, we have placed the word “Final” in quotation marks because, in a few months, the best approach today can turn out to be ineffective. Your team needs to realise that the new processes are not set in stone and will change as necessary over time, so it is essential to teach a growth mentality to them. In order to keep the SOP accurate and valuable, make sure to review and update it as needed.
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Importance of Standard Operating Procedures 

Standard operating procedures can be used to record almost any operation, from cleaning a production unit to performing a crucial task. They assist,

  • Enhance business performance by providing the safety, health, environmental, and operational data required to successfully carry out specific business activities.
  • Guarantee the items and services are safe and of high quality.
  • Make that all applicable laws, rules, and regulations are followed.
  • Eliminate variances in procedures and methods used by workers in various locations or factories to ensure consistency.
  • Provide a solid framework for training and integrating new hires.
  • Process control will open up opportunities for continual improvement.
  • Encourage enhanced communication.
  • Assist inspectors with auditing procedures by serving as checklists.
  • Rebuild operational systems in new settings.

Conclusion

The best method to ensure your team uses its top talents is to develop standard operating procedures. Without appropriate and clear direction, even the most qualified professionals could not be productive and effective in their roles. Your team members will always know what to do in every situation they encounter if you have standard operating procedures available.

Also Read:
Producer Company Registration Procedure in India
Companies Amendment Act, 2020 – Key Features
Types of Committee as per the Companies Act, 2013

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