The Secret Sauce

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 miraculous.


What is an SOP?

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 a 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

A lot of SOPs pass on the ‘how’, but not 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.


Negative, unfriendly writing style

SOPs full of lots of negative language.



SOPs should NEVER, EVER be substituted for training

Upon completion, a supervisor, (different from the person who created it), should “shadow” the employee executing the SOP, to observe and correct, as necessary.


Not expecting or anticipating exceptions


Steps to Fixing SOPs

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.


Ask Why

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 organizations use their (proven) exceptional SOPs as a recruiting tool. Think about that!



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Alan Adler coaches individuals and successful high-performing business leaders to help accelerate their personal and professional growth. In addition to one-on-one coaching, Alan hosts noncompetitive, confidential, business-owner mentor advisory groups. Click here to schedule a meeting with him. As an entrepreneur, he has started three businesses, including his current, Alan Adler & Associates, LLC. His experience also includes working in marketing communication roles, (with senior management) at two of the largest corporations in the world.  You can find his books, Getting the Fish to Swim to YOU & Keeping Them in YOUR Boat, and UpStream, on Amazon. Alan lives in Huntersville, NC with his wife Mindy. They have two grown children, two grandchildren, and a rescue dog named Bentley.






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