Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are a very important and necessary component of any business. They provide the blueprint of how a business is run and organized. Without them, there is no set path of how procedures and protocols need to take place in order for the business to be efficient, effective, to maximize performance and achieve the optimal outcomes and overall goal of a company. Furthermore they are required to avert and potential dangers or threats that may arise and to capitalize upon opportunities in order to ensure the business continues to thrive and grow.
Imagine your business is like a house. In order for a house to be built it needs a blueprint to lay out how the foundation is set up and where the load bearing walls will be. How the wiring will be laid out for electricity, how many power outlets per room, where the gas lines and plumbing will be fitted, where floors, walls windows and doors will be placed, how high the ceilings are, the square footage of each room, the specific placement of the bathrooms, the kitchen, dining room, living room, master bedrooms, the layout of the backyard, where the swimming pool and jacuzzi will be, and the location of the garage etc.
All of these factors and more need to be taken into consideration prior to the house actually being “physically” built. Without a blueprint there are no guidelines for how the foundation is set up, will it support the entire infrastructure, what and how each structure is built and how it all fits together in a seamless and cohesive construction. Let alone how to ensure the safety and security of the structure. Is it built to last long term or do some of the components need to be updated, remodeled or replaced with new parts that will ensure the longevity and effective functionality of the structure as a whole? Where might there be potential dangers? How can you be prepared or safeguard for the best results if an emergency were to arise? E.g. having sprinklers and smoke detectors in the ceiling of each room and a fire extinguisher in the house. Having an emergency plan and back up plan if you need to evacuate your home. Making sure the house is built to code so that walls and floors do not cave in causing damage or injury, or the electrical wiring doesn’t short causing electrocution or fire, the plumbing is correctly sealed up so as not to cause leaking and flooding etc.
Without proper SOPs all types of issues can begin to spring up that may cause huge issues as the business expands and replicates itself, including poor compliance, tracking, accountability and performance, damage to the company’s reputation, getting sued, losing one’s best clients, contacts and employees and loss of income and funding.
To prevent this happening, a company must have a business plan of what it looks like from its inception to 10, 20, 30 years in the future so that as growth occurs, the required structures can be added in and/or built upon.
While we can’t foresee the extent of how technology will grow over this period, we can extrapolate to make room for changes that may impact the business if innovation does occur. If applicable the business plan can be updated to take such things into account.
A business is like a living being. It needs to have trigger points and safety mechanisms inbuilt within its guidelines. For us as human beings, our body has homeostatic feedback loops that tell our physiology when things are functioning outside of the optimal or normal range and automatically corrects itself to bring the whole being back to order and balance. The same needs to occur in a business. The SOPs need to function as feedback loops to keep things on track, running smoothly and incorporate back up plans and procedures if required to mitigate damage and maintain the integrity and viability of the business as an entire living entity.
Regular revision and review of the SOPs should be mandatory. In some areas a review should occur every 3 – 6 months, while in other areas, once every 12 months is enough to suffice.
How effective are your SOPs? When was the last time you reviewed them? If it has been a while and/or the focus, vision and mission of your company has altered or perhaps now it has the capacity to add in and support further levels or layers to it, take the time with your team to inspect and go over what currently exists. Where applicable, edit, delete and update the components necessary to keep your business flourishing.