How to Avoid Mistakes and Duplicate Work

How to Avoid Mistakes and Duplicate Work

What is an SOP?

Even with the best intentions, work sometimes doesn't go as planned. 

Things fall through the cracks, skipped steps, and duplicated efforts can become the norm.

Writing Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) can help.

An SOP is detailed, written instruction outlining the steps necessary to perform a routine task or activity consistently.

Why should I use an SOP in my agency? 

Folks come and go, and you need to preserve knowledge in your organization. Using an SOP will help to ensure that newer folks can take over where others left off. They are also helpful for critical tasks that require precision.

How can I identify recurring processes to document?

  1. Observe day-to-day operations - Watch how tasks are performed and note the steps involved.
  2. Consult with staff - Ask employees involved in the process for their input on the steps and any best practices they follow.
  3. Review documentation - Check for any existing documentation, such as manuals or existing checklists, that may provide insight into the process.
  4. Identify inefficiencies - Look for areas where the process could be improved and streamlined.
  5. Prioritize processes - Identify critical functions that are key to your agency's success.

How can I scope an SOP?

  1. Identify the objective - Clearly define the purpose and goals of the SOP to help determine its scope.
  2. Assess the impact - Consider the potential impact of the process on other areas of the agency.
  3. Consider stakeholders - Determine who will be affected by the process and include their needs and requirements in the scope of the SOP.
  4. Evaluate resources - Assess the resources required to implement the process.

How do I document an SOP?

  1. Use clear and concise language - Write the steps simply to ensure they are easy to understand.
  2. Use numbered steps - List the steps in numerical order to provide a clear and organized structure.
  3. Include diagrams or illustrations - Use diagrams or illustrations to help visualize the steps and make the SOP easier to follow.
  4. Specify roles and responsibilities - Identify who is responsible for each step to ensure accountability.
  5. Include any necessary equipment and materials - List any equipment or materials required to complete the process.
  6. Use active voice - Write the steps in an active voice to clarify the actions required.

How do I test an SOP?

  1. Pilot test - Conduct a pilot test of the SOP with a small group of employees to identify any areas that need improvement.
  2. Solicit feedback - Ask the pilot testers for feedback on the SOP, including any suggestions for improvement.
  3. Review results - Analyze the pilot test results and use the feedback to refine the SOP.
  4. Update the SOP - Make any necessary revisions to the SOP based on the pilot test results.
  5. Repeat the testing process - Repeat the testing process until the SOP is finalized and ready for implementation.
  6. Monitor implementation - Monitor the performance of the SOP to ensure it is being followed correctly and identify further areas for improvement.

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) can help your agency achieve consistent quality and efficiency by providing clear, standardized instructions for routine tasks.

To create an effective SOP, identify recurring processes, scope the procedure, document it using clear and concise language, include necessary equipment and materials, and test and refine the process through pilot testing and feedback. 

By using SOPs, you can preserve knowledge within your agency and ensure smooth transitions when personnel change.


Further Reading

Checklist Manifesto
The title of this book says it all. Here's a good book summary to help decide if you want to pick it up.

Standard Operating Procedure
Overview of SOPs.

How to Write a Standard Operating Procedure: More Than a Simple Process
A standard operating procedure should include step-by-step instructions to perform the task at hand. Describing the outcome as well as the who, what, and where will help to maintain schedules, train employees, or stay in compliance.

How to Write Effective Standard Operating Procedures
Process documentation gives a high-level overview and a standard operating procedure provides details to make sure a process is executed correctly.

How Standard Operating Procedures Improve Communication in a Small Business
Standard operating procedures can help folks communicate and help meet deadlines while people work on a project. All while maintaining quality and on-time deliver.