ASK ALAN: Sharing the Secret Sauce
ASK ALAN: Sharing the Secret Sauce Used by the Best Managed Organizations in the World
The “secret sauces,” used by the best-managed organizations in the world are SOPs, (Standard Operating Procedures). When carefully crafted and introduced properly, their value is undeniably, miraculous
A standard operating procedure, (SOP)…
… offers detailed, written instructions on how to perform a routine business activity and explain the process being described. They guide workers and reduce the possibility of missed steps or other errors that impact the quality of the completed product or service. SOPs, when realized and materialized as a component of an effective management system, helps cultivate transparent functions, implement error prevention measures, facilitate corrective actions, and transfer knowledge and skill. Additionally, they can reduce anxiety, stress, and tension among employees.
Nothing in business ever runs smoothly
As we know, nothing in business or life ever runs smoothly. That is the problem.
Mistakes in SOPs:
Head office or Committees write the documents
Problems occur when: procedures are written in corporate-speak with big words and long sentences. Or, using language no-one would speak. Or, procedures are incorrect and head office or committees do not know how to improve them nor do they have the time to care.
When supervisors and other staff members write SOPs
They get ignored because procedures are incorrect and inconsistent.
Pass on the how but forget the why
Boring formatting and lots of text
Researchers have found that most learning occurs visually. We know how much easier it is to learn from a picture than written or complicated text. Yet less than 50% of SOPs use photos or diagrams.
The negative, unfriendly writing style
More often than not, SOPs are full of lots of negative language.
SOPs should NEVER, EVER be substituted for training
For an SOP to be truly effective, a supervisor, (different from the person who created it), should “shadow” the employee executing the SOP, to observe and correct it, as necessary.
Not expecting or anticipating exceptions
We know that there are always periodic exceptions, to rules, in business. So accept the fact that they will occur and have a plan ready to deal with them… avoid chaos!
Steps to Fixing SOPs. What works!
The best SOPs are written by training managers or really, passionate people, willing to work out the best way to communicate training messages. Here are some tips recommended to improve SOPs or even introduction and training manuals:
Get an outsider to read your SOPs
This is a great test, as to how well a person understands the information. Often, experts have “The Curse of Knowledge.” Either the SOP has more information than a person needs to understand or too little. If it is written well, a child should be able to understand it.
Go through every procedure and ask why do we do that? Eliminate redundant information that can be deleted.
Do the procedures, yourself, according to the SOPs
This is a great way to test if they are relevant and make sense.
Use marketing and communication techniques
Lift the readability of your training information. Try different ideas and techniques. If marketers can sell boring products, then techniques can be used to “sell” a mundane process.
Finally, the smartest, best-managed organizations, use their (proven) exceptional SOPs as a recruiting tool. Think about that!