Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) provide a roadmap for your small business, ensuring daily operations are smooth and consistent. Done correctly, they offer a valuable point of reference for your team, help minimize mistakes, and reduce training time. SOPs also allow for scalability and create a strong foundation for growth, making it easy to onboard and ramp up new team members.
In today’s video, ProcessDriven CEO Layla Pomper takes us through four common mistakes small business owners sometimes make when starting business process documentation. Whether you’re new to writing SOPs or need a refresher, let’s get into it!
Mistake #1: Using video only (timestamp 00:35).
Video SOPs can be helpful in some circumstances. However, if someone needs to reference a specific video segment quickly, they’ll need to watch or skim through the entire content. Watching a ten-minute video when what you’re looking for is only around a minute or thirty seconds isn’t exactly a time saver. And video isn’t just hard to navigate; it’s hard to update!
What happens when one step of your process evolves? You’ll have to reshoot the entire video. Considering the many processes that make up a successful business, just thinking about all that extra video production is exhausting! It’s more likely that those updates will get put on the back burner, and you’ll have a vast video SOP library that no one uses because it’s outdated.
Do this instead: Supplement your video SOPs with written content, like how we do with blog posts for each of our ProcessDriven videos. This makes your SOPs easy for your teams to search, skim, and for you to provide them with the most up-to-date information possible.
Mistake #2: They’re written by the wrong person (timestamp 02:25).
A top-down approach to SOPs is a recipe for creating processes people don’t use. Rather than having a manager or high-level executive like a CMO write down the processes for team members, you’ll be more successful by engaging the people who perform the tasks and processes to participate in their documentation.
The people executing the processes possess the most accurate, hands-on knowledge of each step, potential obstacles, and workarounds. This in-the-trenches insight helps create SOPs that are practical, effective, and reflective of reality, making these procedures more relatable and easier to follow for others in the same role.
Do this instead: Work from the ground up and lean on the people performing the actual processes to write the SOPs.
Mistake #3: They’re difficult to update (timestamp 03:45).
We touched on this a bit in Mistake #1. As your business expands and changes, it’s only natural that your processes will evolve too. What happens when the person using an SOP finds a mistake or needs to make an update? If that process is arduous, guess what? That update won’t happen! Having a comprehensive library of SOPs is great, but it’s all for naught when no one uses them.
Never gatekeep the ability to provide feedback, edit, or update SOPs.
Do this instead: Wherever you collect and organize your SOPs, ensure your team can leave comments or suggest changes.
Mistake #4: No way of skimming (timestamp 06:00).
Many studies show that people, especially busy people, skim content rather than reading every word. You can see examples of this even here in our blog, where we frequently use headers, bullet points, numbered lists, and timestamps to help skimmers quickly find the content they need.
When your SOPs look like a complex wall of text, the chances are those skimmers will give up and say, “I’ll just figure it out myself,” leading to potential errors and rendering your hard work useless.
Do this instead: Use templates to make SOPs easy to read and understand. Use headings and bullets to break up the text so you can see immediately which sections apply to the specific problem your team is attempting to solve. Numbered steps clarify what order things happen in, and detailed instructions let us know when each is complete and it’s time to proceed to the next step.
Until next time, enjoy the process!
If you’re looking to systemize your operations, define your processes with action-oriented exercises, and equip them with SOPs, automations, delegation, and more — check out our FREE strategy training, The Blueprint, to learn more.