Do you have a SOP? Well then, what next?

Authored by Ankoor Dasguupta, Vice President – Brands| Marketing| Special Projects, SHEROES.

If the armed forces and marines did not have Standard Operating Procedures, think of the downside of it. I was having a chat with a friend where the debate was, are SOPs a necessity for corporate work force as well? We know that many companies do, and many don’t deploy or invest in building and adherence to SOPs depending on various aspects. 

Essentially it does three things – firstly document everything version wise, secondly, acts as a ready reckoner for anyone in an organization and thirdly provides a better methodology for documenting work.

Having worked in various teams and cultures, here are some of my best and next practice sharing on the impact of designing and adhering to SOPs.

The Challenge

SOPs are cumbersome and requires unfettered focus, discipline and dedication while also may need actual documentation specialists. Some companies with SOPs in place may realize that they are still, for e.g., using the Version_A, even though the SOPs were written several years earlier, demonstrating that they are stagnant. In case of airplanes, spaceship or armed forces, the SOP may not change that drastically as the processes may in the corporate world. 

Possible Solutions

Process Maps – Visuals have a better impact than only text. So, if the key elements of the basic process of various departments is depicted as a flowchart and simply stuck on the bulletin boards, it becomes easier. The footnote in the visual could mention the contact person or URL for any detailed information in case someone may need to double click a piece. Also, process maps are much easier to modify using symbols, icons or stencil.

Who for What – This is a thing we see some organizations are still struggling with. This piece ideally could be taken a separate item under protocol guidelines so that people are aware who is the concerned person to reach out for a query. This may also come under managing stakeholders. For any discussion, knowing who to rope in, who will lead make significant difference. For.e.g., having numerous people on an email thread with more than half of them may not know what they are required for.

Ambiguity is a Choice- I have come across job descriptions that mention – ability to work in an ambiguous environment. The only question I have is – why is that ability required? Is that as a culture required to build more on? I have always been an advocate of non-ambiguity. It is entirely up to an organization, leaders and teams to remove it. The thing with ambiguity is that it is infectious like a ‘yawn’. Ambiguity is a choice.

Video Information

Essentially, having detailed instructions to attain uniformity of performance of a specific function is the requirement, right? This tackles to remove pain areas and saving time on ‘what to do next’ on certain situations. So, today, why not invest time in creating short videos on a specific process to disseminate instructions? This will more realistic efforts, better churn on deploying information input, better access to everyone and, enjoying while learning!

Prepare before updating

Any process documentation needs updates due to various reasons. Calibrations, tweaks, special situations that may be more complex etc. The good part here is, a process does not go obsolete overnight. There is always a bell, a signal that something in the process needs a change and even better that everyone is almost aware of the need when it starts to occur. So, preparing in tandem to put a deadline to update the information for all is important. 

At the end, what I understand is ‘time’ is the mother of all metrics. If we respect time, become not only pro-active but deeper in our approach to think about the impact an action makes for others, life will become more purpose driven with structured information for all. Because, it is all about constructing, shaping and assembling data and information in the most consumable way and this is emancipating as well!

About the Author

A Dale Carnegie and ISB fellow, Ankoor believes in the power of Energy & Energize. He brings with him a pedigree of 19 years in the domain of marketing and advertising across functions in the spectrum of print, digital, mobile, events along with a strong C-Suite network which he drives with the mantra of Return on Relationships. Ankoor also has been part of the core launch teams of multiple international IPs in India and is an avid writer, guest lecturer and active speaker at various forums.


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