Getting your SOP right is a crucial part of the planning process when deciding how you want a task to be completed.
The better the plan, the more efficient the execution.
Here are some of our top writing tips for getting your SOP right.
1. Get Your Formatting Right
There is no right or wrong way to do this. Start by looking up your company formatting guidelines and consider their pre-existing templates. If they don’t have any, why not try one of these:
- The bullet list – A basic structure of simple sentences telling the reader exactly what to do. This is the easiest way for you to document all of the requirements and prospective outcomes of your project in a simple list format.
- The hierarchy – Useful for longer procedures, this model is based on creating main steps with all of your relevant sub-steps listed below. If each step has a few directions, creating a hierarchical list will be the most effective way of presenting your task.
- The map – If the results of your procedure are unpredictable, use a flowchart to factor in various possible outcomes. Flowcharts can be key to understanding the inner workings of a process or activity that needs performing. Displaying the activities and sequences of your process with pictures, symbols and small, structured guidelines will leave little room for error or miscommunication.
- Know your audience – There are a number of variations that must be considered before producing your final draft. Your audience is one of these. Their prior knowledge of the project, size, age range and language abilities will affect the amount of detail your SOP will need to go in to.
- How much do you know? – A poorly written SOP isn’t good for anyone involved. If this is your first procedure, make sure you get some tips from people who are creating them on a daily basis.
- Short form/Long form – If you are writing or updating an SOP for a group of previously informed contemporaries, a short-form checklist should be all you need. If this is a task that hasn’t been outlined previously or is your target audience’s first encounter with it, use a long-form template that will offer them clear and detailed direction.
2. Tick All Of Your Boxes
There are four simple yet very important basics that all SOP’s tend to follow:
- Title page – This should cover all of your essential information, including; title, date, SOP identification number and the name of the division/branch/client it belongs to.
- Table of contents – If you are keeping things short and sweet, this probably won’t be necessary. If your SOP requires more in depth analysis and/or direction, a table of contents will help break your task down into sections.
- Quality control – Your reader needs to know that they have obtained the desired results. Make sure they have all the information they need to evaluate the success of your SOP.
- Reference – If you choose to reference any other SOP’s, make sure you include their information in the appendix of your report.
- Make it concise and easy to read – Convey your point with short, clear and detailed instruction. No one will be reading this for the fun of it!
- Use diagrams and flowcharts – These will help break up your text and provide your reader with a little visual aid.
- Give it a number – Chances are this will be one of many SOP’s on your company’s database. Giving it a unique reference number (URN) will make it easier to find should you need it at a later date.
3. Review Your Procedure
Ask a handful of people with a limited working knowledge of the process you have been detailing to use your SOP to guide them through the prospective task.
If any issues with the process arise, address them then test them again. Repeat this process until you and your reader get it right.
- Get your intended reader to review it – They are the ones who will be following your instructions. If it works for them, then it works for you.
- Have your legal rep review it – They will let you know if it meets formatting requirements and company regulation. If there are changes that need to be made before publishing your final draft, they will be able to tell you.
- Good to go? Get implementing! – As soon as you get the thumbs up, it’s time to start earning some credit and getting your SOP out there for all to see.
TightShip allows you to automate the whole SOP process following the best practices listed above. Why not start a free trial today?