In terms of "managing" SOPs for your team, there are four primary activities you need to address:
1) Creation of SOPs
2) Changing SOPs
3) Sharing active SOPs (This includes training.)
4) Archiving SOPs
1 and 2: Creating and Changing SOPs
The flow chart for all of this is pretty straight forward. Let's say you are going to perform a procedure. First, determine whether there a written procedure already. If yes, execute it. If no, open a template and begin creating the procedure as you execute it. This becomes the first draft of your procedure.
Of course that needs to be stored in an appropriate place so that others can find it, use it, and update it. Thus the procedure becomes a living document. It evolves over time to remain accurate. If it is useful to duplicate this procedure for several clients, then you can create copies that are customized per client. Those are probably stored in individual client folders and not the primary procedure folder.
From time to time procedures become obsolete and are removed from the folders. They should be placed in an archive folder so you can find them if needed, but they are not mixed in with the "live" procedures.
So, from this little narrative, here are the elements you need to create a policy about managing your SOPs. This checklist should be repeated for each team (e.g., finances, sales, tech support):
- Where will the team's SOPs be stored?
- Who is authorized to make changes to procedures (hint: You should justify any answer other than "everyone").
- The last item in every checklist or procedure should be "Update this document"
3 and 4: Sharing and Archiving SOPs
Sharing includes putting things where you can find them AND training employees to use the SOPs. These are both much easier if you have regular employee meetings - such as a regular Monday morning huddle. Sharing includes making sure everyone knows whether they'll find what they're looking for on the Sharefile site, the company's public folder, inside ever note, etc.
Training is Cristal important. With every process, every procedure, and every checklist, you should make sure that everyone on the team is executing well. That means that they watch someone execute the procedure, then someone watches them execute. Only then are they allowed to execute on their own.
If a procedure is new to the team, the team should go through it together to make sure all questions are answered. This is particularly important if a task used to be reserved for one or two high-level technicians and now everyone on the team is going to perform that task.
Training is also important as your team grows. From time to time it is useful to go through even mundane procedures and make sure everyone knows Your Way of doing things.
Finally, someone on each team needs to be responsible for weeding out old procedures. These might be obsolete (such as testing the backup tapes) or something that is now performed per-client so a universal procedure is no longer relevant. In some cases, you might have a folder for templates that personalized for each client.
Never simply delete old procedures. Move them to the archive folder. You never know what you're going to need some day!
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The SOP Mentality
This seems like a lot of activity around SOPs. Just keep it in perspective: This is a lot of activity around standardization of your company. It's a lot of activity around doing things the right way. It's a culture of focuses a little bit every day on the things that will make your company systematically successful!
- The !Tech Directory
- Organizing Company Files and Folders
- Naming Your Processes and Procedures
- Information Sharing
- When Processes and Procedures Become Obsolete
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About this Series
SOP Friday - or Standard Operating System Friday - is a series dedicated to helping small computer consulting firms develop the right processes and procedures to create a successful and profitable consulting business.
Find out more about the series, and view the complete "table of contents" for SOP Friday at SmallBizThoughts.com.
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Next topic: Making Exceptions to SOPs
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