Today, we’re going to do a mini dive into what does an SOP looks like. First off, what does SOP stand for? In the traditional sense, an SOP is a Standard Operating Procedure. Ideally, it’s a repeatable set of steps and processes, that provides a consistent and predictable set of outcomes.
The main components of an SOP
Every SOP you’ll encounter in a business will be slightly different. Each needs to be tailored to not only the client, but their tools, their staff and current processes they have within their business. For each SOP I write, I include the following key sections as a standard:
Let’s break down these key sections of the SOP below.
The purpose holds a description of the SOP. This is the reason for why the SOP exists and its definition of success. When writing your SOP’s purpose, it’s important to think of who will be using and performing the steps within the process. Ideally, a great SOP will be written overall for anyone to come into the business and be able to perform the task (regardless of their business knowledge).
These are the items that need to be completed before you can begin to execute the SOP. Specific data may need to be collected, supplies made available, people and skills in place. This may even include other SOPs in your library or it can also be too different tools or processes that go along with whats does an SOP look like. The list should be simple and straightforward.
People define who is responsible and/or accountable for various aspects of the SOP. Based on how your business operates, it could be a combination of both roles or just the person who is completing this task. An example for this section could be: “Accountable: Project Manager – <PM Name> and Responsible: Technical VA – <name>”.
Accountable means the person who is the ‘doer’ of the defined tasks, while the responsible role is the one ensuring the tasks are completed. This can be two separate people, or one who is both accountable and responsible.
The SOP process is a list of steps (but not the details or ‘how-to’) that need to be completed within the SOP. Based on what you’re using to document your SOPs, this can be a simple list of text items, or if you want to get fancy, you can add links to the headings (the steps) in the document to quickly jump down to the details of how that step is to be executed. Flow charts can be useful to visualize the process if it is complex or has decision points along the way.
This is the ‘heart’ of the SOP. Steps are the details that describe how the various tasks that need to be executed to achieve the objectives of the SOP. For example, if you’re creating a social media post, the steps could be:
- Access google docs + copy content
- login to google docs
- navigate to the content folder
- open the google doc
- copy the content under the social media heading
- Login to Later
- login to later
- create a new post …
Remember, as you’re crafting your SOPs, think of writing them for someone else to use. In a later post, I’ll describe the best practices and process of how to write an SOP that stands the test of use. One colleague of mine, always said that they would write their steps in such a way that their Grandmother could read and execute them.
Each SOP should have a set of measures to define what success looks like. This helps set expectations with customers, as well as how to prioritize your work. In some cases, it may be as simple as how long the SOP should take to complete, or how often it needs to be completed. Others may have more complex measures that provide details on what the output should look like.
In Summary of what does a sop look like
Your SOPs need to contain, at a minimum, the following six sections: purpose, pre-requisites, people, process, steps, and metrics.