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Your Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) provide employees with a handy reference to common everyday business practices, daily activities, or routine tasks. New employees will find an operation manual especially helpful in getting up and running as fast as possible. After all, with your SOP in place, new employees will not have to interrupt supervisors to ask others how an operation or task is done. Training is faster and interruptions are reduced.
How Do You Get Started Writing Your SOP Manual?
Having an SOP manual is great but the question most often asked is how do you get started writing an operations manual? Well it is a lot easier than you think. Follow these five steps and you will have a well-defined SOP manual of your critical policies, procedures, and forms.
- Map out your core processes.
- Define each core business process activities.
- Document each activity into a series of steps.
- Determine the required records, forms, and management metrics.
- Build your documents, reports, and graphs, that form your management system.
Start with a Process Map
First, start with a process map of your top level processes. For most companies your top ten core business processes are divided into support processes (accounting, human resources, information technology, quality, and management strategy) or your realization processes (sales, product development, purchasing, fulfillment, and service). Not all companies have all ten core processes. Now that your core operating processes are defined, you are ready to move on to defining each process.
Define Your Core Processes
Second, define each core business process and its activities. Think top level once again. In the sales process, how are your orders converted into a shipped product? Orders are received, entered, picked, packed, shipped, and invoiced.
Document Your Procedures
Third, document each operation from start to finish. Let’s take the sales process. How do your sales orders arrive, who takes them, how often, under what criteria, who touches the order next, what do they do, and so on… Just follow the sales order through your system and define each step. You SOP manual is slowly building…
Implement Your Records
Fourth, determine the required records, forms, and management metrics. Do you have a standard order form, confirmation checklist, pick sheet, or invoice? We need to know what forms are used, where they are located, and who maintains them in case we run out and have to get more. Next identify core metrics for each activity, the transaction volume, and timing. We will need these next.
Combine Into Your SOP Manual
Finally, we are now ready to put together the SOP manual and start using the system. Start the operations manual with your core processes mapped out in step one. Explain each core business process with the material from step two. Then dive into each process with the individual procedure steps outlined from step three. Add references to each record or form needed as you touch on them in the detailed procedure steps with the notes from step four.
To get the most value out of your SOP manual, you will need to use it over and over again. Updating it as needed. Use the metrics as your daily management system to ensure you are getting the results you expect from your business. Now you are managing by procedures that you built from your SOP manual. To see some procedure examples, download free SOP samples from Bizmanualz.