“User feedback is one of the most important resources for improving an organization’s quality control. If you’re serious about quality control, you can’t assume that you know what the user wants.” – Anonymous
The Purpose of SOPs
Most people think of SOPs as step-by-step directions describing how employees must complete their jobs. While that is partially true, SOPs are much more than that. They are a means to remove variation in work performance: they direct employees to use the same specific steps to complete a process so that, regardless of who performs the process, it is done in the same way.
Effective SOPs contribute to your company’s overall compliance by specifying your processes and then making sure everyone understands them and knows who to contact when a problem or a change is needed. Without effective documentation, a process can cause confusion and may lead to error.
Characteristics of an SOP That Gets Used
Creating clear, concise, descriptive, and accurate documentation provides employees with reference to standard business practices. New employees will be able to use the SOPs to learn how to perform specific jobs or tasks; experienced employees can use them as a refresher when quality or performance slips.
6 Tips for Creating Useful SOPs
- Involve stakeholders in the preparation. This ensures that the documented process is an actual process.
- Make sure the meaning of the process is clear and not open to misinterpretation. Use simple English to explain the steps.
- Use flowcharts and graphics to support the text. Visuals make it easier for the reader to better understand the process.
- Have peers review your document before submitting it for approval. Test the document on someone who is unfamiliar with the process and have them tell you what they think it means. Then, incorporate user feedback.
- Make sure your document’s history is recorded for every version change. You need to be able to show auditors that you have a monitoring process in place that allows you to evaluate your documentation for relevancy on a scheduled basis and track changes.
- Update your SOPs immediately. Never be afraid to revise an SOP if new information or resources become available that enables a process to be completed more efficiently. The same goes if previously unknown factors are discovered that render one or more steps in a process irrelevant.
Interested in learning how Contiem can help your company develop effective SOPs? Contact us to schedule a discussion!