Creating SOPs: You’ve made your SOP, here’s how to effectively execute

Your how-to guide for activating your SOP (standard operating procedure).

You’ve put in the time to understand a process, you found ways to make it more efficient, and you’ve documented it perfectly. Now, for the real challenge — executing.

An SOP is only as good as its adoption. If no one uses it, you’ve missed your mark. This is why effectively executing is so important.

Follow these guidelines for executing on SOPs to ensure every process you craft creates consistency, scalability and continuous improvement.

Set-up tools to make execution easy

Make following the SOP as easy as possible.

Review your SOP and look for opportunities to create templates, calculators, and reminders, taking out manual steps to make the new SOP less daunting. Tools that simplify the new process will be invaluable in the success of your SOP.

Make sure finding your SOP is easy

Does your organization have a library for SOPs? Is it easy to find processes you are looking for?

If a system is already established — great! Use it, and if possible, improve it.

If not — propose creating one. SOP setup can be created and maintained in free systems such as Evernote and Google Drive, but if your organization has a lot of SOPs, it might be worth investing in a system that is made for this type of documentation, collaboration and organization, like Confluence, SweetProcess, SOP Express.

Having an SOP in a spot that is easy to find when needed is critical. If you can’t find the process you need, you may assume it doesn’t exist, or proceed without it. In some cases, this can be a big problem. Make sure your SOP is in a space that makes sense and that people will find it.

Roll it out

Successful roll-outs should reach all stakeholders — whether they are responsible for performing the task, manage the people responsible for doing the task, or receive the output of the process — they all need to know this new process exists. This roll-out will make or break your SOP adoption. Use these tips to ensure it goes smoothly.

Use multiple mediums to get the word out — choose more than one, better yet, do them all!

  • In person, individually or at a team meeting: Bring handouts or visual aids.
  • Email all the stakeholders: Link to where the SOP can be found, making for easy access later on.
  • Slack (or any IM system your teams use): You can even create a roll-out channel for easy reference.

Multiple mediums will ensure you reach everyone, even the team member who was on vacation the week you went to the team meeting for a roll out.

Set an objective and be concise

What do you want the team to walk away from your roll-out knowing? An example of an objective would be you want the team to understand why this SOP needs to be followed, and when they need to use it. Set a clear objective and craft your roll-out message around that.

An initial roll-out may not be the time to walk through every step of the process — you created an SOP to do that for you. Make sure the roll out is clear and concise and that your objectives are met.

Make your roll-out time-based

When will this change happen? When will they be expected to start using this SOP? Make sure the when is clear and without question.

Save time for questions

An in-person roll-out is an opportunity for the group to benefit from each other’s questions. Leave time for questions and be prepared to answer them.

You can even make space for questions in the digital mediums: Email — tell people how to reach you for questions; Slack (or IM system) — encourage questions in the conversation thread.

Many SOP systems will have question boards or allow for comments on a process. You can implement using these as another way that everyone can get their questions in, and others can see those Q&As.

Pro-Tip: Plant some questions with your peers to get the ball rolling. Are there questions you can think of that are likely to come up? Ask someone in the stakeholder group to ask the question for you. Sometimes it only takes one person to open the flood gates!

Check for understanding

Before you count your roll out as complete, ask some questions to check for understanding. You can even gamify it by having prizes ($10 gift cards, candy, free lunch) ready for correct answers!

Training

A roll-out of why, when, and where will be sufficient for some SOPs, but others may require training. Take a look at your SOP, and determine if it needs to be trained to your stakeholder group. Is this a big enough change to warrant a training? Is the SOP complex enough to need a more thorough explanation? Is training required (some processes may require training due to compliance or regulations)? If you are still unsure, consult your SMEs (subject matter experts), or your group of stakeholders you established buy-in with in the beginning — they may be able to help you determine the best course of action.

Once you’ve decided training is required for this SOP, decide who should attend. Not all stakeholders may require training, for some (like managers overseeing those doing the tasks) the roll-out (from above) will be plenty, while others (the ones doing the new activity) may need the step-by-step training.

Your next step will be to decide how to train this SOP. You can train it in an in-person group training, one-on-one ride-alongs, or a self-paced module/video. Determine the most efficient way to get the training effectively completed.

  • Video/module: If the process is unlikely to change in the near future and will need to be taken by a large group of employees (both present and future), a video or module may be the best use of your time to hit the most people.
  • In-person: If your process is likely to change, you may not want to put that time into a video that will just have to be re-done, and an in-person training may be the way to go.
  • One-on-one ride-alongs: These can be very effective, but very time consuming. If you are training a smaller group, one-on-one training may be the way to go.

QC (Quality Control) outcomes

Check-in on the product of your SOP to ensure that it is producing accurate outputs and is meeting your intentions. If you created an SOP for submitting expense reports, check in with the accounts payable department to see if they are receiving accurate, on-time, and consistent submissions. If your SOP was how to create an ROI calculator for a prospective client, check the work of your sales team to see that ROI calculators were made and that they are accurate based on your SOP’s instructions.

Checking the work when an SOP is new will help to identify if any sections of the process are consistently done wrong. Maybe you can rewrite it in a way that is more understandable, or maybe you need to hold a training. It can also help to hold people accountable for a new activity they aren’t used to doing. If your work will be checked up on, you are more likely to make the effort to learn the new process.

Continuously improve

Set a cadence to check in with your stakeholder group on the success of the SOP. Has it simplified their task? Is it achieving the results it was written to achieve? Are they feeling any new pain points? Is any part of the process now out of date? Checking in regularly (possibly quarterly) will give you the opportunity to continue to make your SOP better and more adopted, which in turn will improve the business and help it move forward.

Even though you have completed and rolled out your SOP, your work isn’t done. Strive to always make things better. A well-crafted and well-executed SOP will ultimately be a well-adopted SOP.

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About the Author

Chelsey Lewis

Chelsey Lewis

An executive assistant and writer, Chelsey Lewis has extensive experience in business operations, customer success, leadership, and training, primarily in the SaaS industry. She has her BA in Strategic Communications from the University of Minnesota and now resides in Northern Montana. If she isn't coordinating chaos, she can be found on her family farm or hiking in Glacier National Park.