How To Write An SOP

SOP

A lot of business owners know they need SOPs, but they simply don’t know how to write an SOP. What ends up happening is that they don’t get written. Focusing on the daily tasks of operating a successful business consumes a business owner so they don’t have time to research the components of an SOP. 

This is why I offer an SOP template on my website. If you haven’t already downloaded one, be sure to do it soon!

On this template, I highlight the different sections and information you need to write a rockstar SOP. It also includes a short description of the information needed. After working with a business owner recently, I also noticed that it would be helpful to have 1:1 support, especially when writing that first one. In this blog post, I hope to provide that extra bit of support to help you be successful when writing your SOPs.

What’s The Purpose Of An SOP?

One question my clients ask me all the time is…

“Why do I need an SOP when I already have a checklist in my project management tool?”

While a checklist in your project management tool is great, it doesn’t help a team member who is filling in for a sick team member complete the task.

A checklist is just that. A list of tasks to complete.

An SOP, however, is a detailed document outlining HOW to complete those tasks. It takes each step in the process and breaks it down into understandable instructions of which button to click on the screen, where to find the copy for the social media post, etc.

SOPs can also include screenshots of an icon or computer screen so the person completing the task knows exactly what to look for.

I also encourage my clients to take a video of them completing the task and then including the link in the SOP.

The basic rule of thumb is that the more detailed an SOP is, the easier it will be for a team member, who has no idea what they are doing, to complete the task.

Tips For How To Write An SOP

Each SOP is broken down into different sections in order to help the writer give as much information as possible. When you take the time to complete each section thoroughly, it helps the team member understand the Why behind the How.

Name of SOP

When you name the SOP, I suggest to use the following naming convention for each.

SOP – {Name/Description Of Task} – {Business Initials}

This is basic information that will help you quickly identify the contents of this document.

Tools and Links

List every piece of software that the user needs to complete the process. Nothing is more frustrating than to get halfway through completing a process and realize you need access to software.

If any documents need to be referenced to complete the task, list them here and hyperlink them for easy access.

Purpose and Policy

In this section, you will give the reason for this process. If you are struggling with this piece, ask yourself why this process is important in operating or growing your business.

The policy part of this section indicates when this process should be done. If it’s a client onboarding SOP, the trigger might be when the invoice is paid. If it’s a content repurposing SOP, the trigger might be when a Facebook Live is finished. 

Indicating these two pieces of information, purpose and policy, gives the team member a good understanding of why the SOP is important and when to complete it.

Person

This is the person who is responsible for performing the SOP. It may also be the person who is in charge of making sure the SOP stays accurate. We all know how quickly software changes and it’s important to note those changes in the SOP as they happen. If a change is made, be sure to note it in the Completion Info at the bottom of the SOP.

I recommend using the title of the team member’s position rather than their name. Team members can come and go, but the position will most likely stay the same. 

Process

This is the broad, overarching task that needs to be completed. It’s the overall task that needs to be done versus the individual actions to take to complete the steps.

For example, if you are writing an SOP on how to complete a blog post, you’re process may look similar to the process below.

STEP 1: Write the blog post.

STEP 2: Create the blog post graphics.

STEP 3: Upload the blog post to the website.

Procedure

Finally, the section in which you will list every action it takes to complete each step of the process. This section can be the most critical for how you write an SOP. These need to be very detailed. Remember, you are writing the SOP so someone who has never done the task or who has never used the software will be able to complete the task without having to ask a bunch of questions.

If we go back to Step 3 of the example of writing the blog post we used above, some of the descriptions may look like…

  1. Log into the website.
  2. In the top left corner, click on the name of the website to bring up a dropdown menu. Click on Dashboard.
  3. In the menu on the left side of the screen, hover over Posts and click on New.
  4. On the screen that pops up, set the date and time for the blog post to go live in the scheduling area that is in the top right corner. The blog post should always go live on a Wednesday at 3:15 am.
  5. And so on….

Within your descriptions, be sure to use images of the icons to look for or videos of you actually doing the task. I like to use these types of “helpers” because some team members may be visual learners. Keep in mind that as software changes, you may also need to update your videos.

Completion Info

This includes information about who originally wrote the SOP, when it was written, and if any revisions have been made. This helps because anyone who is performing the SOP can contact that person if questions arise. 

Knowing when it was written or revised can be helpful if you notice changes in the software. If the SOP isn’t correct because software has changed (and what software doesn’t change, right) you know that portion of the SOP needs an update. You can do that, and make note of the date of revision so the next person to use it has accurate information.

Maintain Your SOPs

A good test for an SOP is to give it to another team member who has never done the task before and ask them to complete the task. When we do a task over and over, we may skip over the little, and sometimes very important, details. This is another reason why a video link in the SOP can be useful.

Lastly, be sure to review your SOPs on a regular basis. Software or steps in a process are always changing. I recommend that my clients set up recurring reminders in their project management tool to review them every 6 months. 

I also recommend that they review SOPs by department or types of SOPs. It can be a daunting task to review them all at once, so if you regularly review your SOPs in small batches, it won’t be quite as overwhelming. Also, consider asking the team member who performs the SOP to review it. They will be the ones who will be most aware of any updates that need to be made.

Now that you know how to write an SOP, good luck to you! I know that 1:1 support can be valuable. If you have any further questions, you can comment below and I’ll be sure to get in touch with you.

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