What is an SOP, you ask? An SOP (or standard operating procedure) is a recipe for your business procedures.
What is an SOP (or Standard Operating Procedure)
To explain what an SOP is, we want you to think about salad dressing. (We promise this will Use our Make affiliate link! sense! Just stick with us here.)
As an expert at SOPs and helping people get their systems up and running, Layla is a pro. However, she is not (yet) a master at cooking.
Her spouse, however? *chefs kiss*
So, what on earth does this have to do with SOPs? Well, everything.
At the heart of it, an SOP is similar to a recipe. There are ingredients, instructions, and steps to make sure everything is delicious (or, that your system is flowing smoothly).
Today, we’re not going to focus too heavily on the semantics behind an SOP, instead, we are going to talk about what they are, good ways to start documenting them, and why they can help your organization.
First Pro Tip: make sure the expert is not writing the SOP
While this sounds counterintuitive, the expert often doesn’t know how to frame things so that a beginner would understand them. They tend to have assumptions and just thoroughly understand the things they have learned via trial and error that sometimes they can struggle to translate the basics.
Ideally, you want the expert involved, but someone else actually writing the SOP so they can put it in clear and easy-to-understand steps.
3 Most Common forms of an SOP
Let’s dive into the 3 most common forms of an SOP:
- Written Text
While they can all help explain how something works, they are not all created equal.
Most popular: SOP Videos (and why we suggest otherwise)
Using videos or screen recordings or Use our ClickUp affiliate link! Clips seems to be one of the most popular options. You can film yourself doing something as you do it, and then send it to someone to repeat the same steps. It makes the most sense, right?
The problem is, these can take quite some time to film and they’re hard to update.
Back to our recipe example. Imagine you want to change an ingredient in a recipe. With video, you’d have to start all the way back at square one and re-film the whole thing or edit the video to fit in the new pieces.
At the same time, the person who has to learn the instructions needs to watch a 10 to 20-minute video just to implement your SOP. What newly-interested-in-cooking person is going to rewatch a video to find out how many teaspoons of sugar you said to add in step 3?
Most useful form of an SOP: Written/typed text
Text is wonderful for creating SOPs. It’s clear, easy to update, and skimmable.
One of the reasons people don’t create text-based SOPs is because they think it will be labor-intensive.
Sure, it can be hard at first to sit down and write out everything in order, but you might be shocked at how much easier it is once you create it.
Most people think they need to create an 8-10 page mega-document in order to make a “correct” SOP, but we’d push you to make it a lightweight format and easier to break into chunks. Written SOPs can be even less time-consuming if you use an SOP template. You create the template once, save it, fill in the blanks for each process – and boom. You’ve got yourself an SOP. (We talk about how to build that SOP template in this video here.)
Quick and easy format, but not ideal on its own: Conversation
This is the third option, where someone tells you something casually. You’d be responsible for remembering or keeping track of what was said.
As humans with a million things on our plates, t’s easy to forget things or let things slip through the cracks. This is best when done in combination with one of the steps above.