Tips for Standard Operating Procedures (SOP):
- Rather than dedicating the majority of your time to monitoring and coaching employees, only to find there is insufficient time left for business expansion, it is more beneficial to develop a comprehensive set of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) that synchronize all departmental functions. This enables the entire company to operate seamlessly towards its company goals.
- When developing work processes for your business, it is crucial to prioritize the customer’s needs and satisfaction above all else!
As a business owner or top management of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), you may frequently encounter a vexing issue that can be emotionally draining.
If you constantly need to be hands-on, managing or supervising employees during your working hours, usually half of the day will be gone. As a business owner, do you still have time to strategize and expand your business? As one of the top management employees, are you able to attend to other delegated tasks?
We have come across situations like that of a vocational training institute where branch managers were required to submit a minimum of 5 reports daily to meet their management objectives. Likewise, there was a restaurant manager that had similar experience, although he was not burdened with as many reports as the training institute, still had to allocate at least half a day in front of the computer to fulfill their daily reporting requirements.
In recent years, we (3S Adviser) have observed numerous instances where a key contributing factor is that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) continue to adhere to Functional Departmental Management.
A key characteristic of Functional Management is its emphasis on the management and control of functions, with a particular focus on the level of function completion within departments and vertical management control. Consequently, there is often a lack of cohesive and integrated connections between functional behaviors across different departments.
Therefore, whenever we work with these types of companies, our coaching process commences by initially designing the company’s management-level operational processes and setting corporate goals and strategic management directions.
We discussed and emphasized the importance of aligning operational processes with the company’s objectives in our previous article (read more). When developing work processes, we start with the desired outcome and work backward through the steps. This approach places primary emphasis on both the outcome and the steps involved in achieving it, effectively shifting the core focus of business management to three key elements, which are:
- Emphasizing customer service,
- Highlighting the company’s goals and effectiveness,
- Prioritizing the company’s operational efficiency.
Principle: Develop SOP from the customer’s perspective
In other words, the work processes should be developed by prioritizing the viewpoint of customers over internal convenience. It should focus on the purpose of processes or tasks, ensuring that each process aligns closely with the company’s strategic direction rather than merely complying with internal norms.
Process management aims to streamline and enhance operational efficiency within a company, with a strong emphasis on process efficiency. Consequently, operational processes are managed with time as a critical metric. Throughout the breakdown of each event or process, time remains a crucial consideration.
When designing operational processes for clients, we frequently ask these key questions: “How much time is typically required for this task?” or “Based on this process and its workload, how much time should it reasonably consume? Does it compare favorably with the use of systems/outsourced services, or with regards to labor costs?”
Reminder: SOPs should be written by considering the entire workflow, not just a single department.
While designing SOPs, it is often advisable to utilize technological tools for automation and digitization, thereby strengthening information processing and circulation.
Workflow management considers all business and management activities as a unified and continuous flow. It replaces the viewpoint of individual departments or activities with a holistic perspective, placing emphasis on the overall performance of the entire process rather than isolated departmental or activity-based performance. This approach differs significantly from the traditional model of managing functional departments.
We consider the next department involved in the process as ‘customer’ while designing the workflow. This perspective encourages different functional departments to collaborate, working together to enhance process performance and achieve consistent goals to meet customer needs.
Bear in mind, it is not about employees who lack understanding, it is about SOPs not being well-executed.
Over the years, as we have assisted numerous businesses to establish standard operating procedures (SOP), the significant change before and after implementing process management is evident.
Previously, business owners primarily focused on conveying company goals, performance targets, and coordinating departmental operations to employees.
Whenever issues arose, apart from being busy searching for the root causes across different departments, business owners often attributed the problems to employees not understanding the company’s values and culture. Some even believed that employees could not appreciate the challenges and hard work faced by the employer.
By implementing the SOPs, we witnessed a gradual synchronization of operations among departments. Each event was treated as a sub-process, all with specific objectives in mind. These sub-processes converged to create a comprehensive collection of processes that formed the company’s overall workflow. The collective goals of these sub-processes then became the company’s overarching objectives.
The business owner eventually told us, “I find myself less overwhelmed now, enabling me to focus on business expansion and devising ways to enhance customer satisfaction and retention.”
This is the outcome that business owners should experience after operational restructuring. If, after the restructuring, the owner becomes even busier, it is certainly worth examining whether there were any issues in the process of restructuring that need to be addressed.
- The key to effective SOPs for SME: WHY to do it?
- Effectiveness Check: Are your SOPs Still Relevant?
- The 6 Most Common Organizational Problems without SOPs! How to Overcome Them?