Tips for Standard Operating Procedures (SOP):
- Traditional SOPs are designed to outline the process based on “how to do it,” while modern SOPs are tailored to the business activities and objectives of the company.
- When there is a disconnect between SOPs and the company’s goals, employees may feel uncertain about their responsibilities and KPIs.
However, once it’s written, it often just remains there. Employees’ actions gradually deviate from the SOPs, resulting in poor performance which in turn impacts the company’s overall performance.
Certainly, at times, business owners may claim that it is employees’ behavior issues, but we cannot rule out the possibility that the existing SOPs might have become outdated!
We (3S Adviser) have often requested clients during the training sessions to share their current SOPs/work processes, and found that most of the existing workflows are quite typical and traditional.
Traditional SOPs are designed around the “how-to” aspect of process planning. However, in practice, modern workflow planning adheres to the principles of BPM (Business Process Management), where these workflows are specifically tailored to align with the business activities and objectives of the company.
Issue 1: Is it possible for a company to become increasingly distant from its goals as it continues to expand?
Process diagrams were essentially used for records of activity sequences. This should not be an issue as process diagrams were originally intended to depict the steps of a task or the sequence of operational activities.
The issue is that as these work processes are being developed, they can often drift away from the company’s goals, especially in large and complex organizations, making it hard to notice.
After having several discussion sessions with the clients, we found that the companies are often facing the same issues, which is that the company knows the need of implementing Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), but it is often unclear which specific task in their work processes actually affects these KPIs.
Ideally, each work process should ultimately contribute to the company’s objectives, much like how small rivers eventually flow into the sea and become interconnected.
Reason: SOP developers often focus on the present without considering the future…
So why do companies still experience a disconnect/mis-link between their work processes and their goals?
The main issue is that the one creating these workflows and SOPs may be lower-end employees or newcomers, without a deep understanding of high-level management or the specific goals these processes should aim for.
They only know that their superiors have instructed them to document the current workflow they are involved in, usually because the current operations are disorganized or have changed from the past.
In this scenario, the SOPs they create are what we might call traditional, and based on BPM principles, their processes can be seen as “as if” workflows.
The results they produce accurately represent their current operations. If they haven’t encountered the issues I mentioned earlier (link), the process diagram they present should match their present operations without any unnecessary steps.
Conclusion: Businesses find it challenging to initiate improvements when it’s difficult to start with the existing work processes.
But if we think about it more deeply, are these work processes actually aligned with the company’s goals? The answer is straightforward: it might be the case, or it might not.
The reason is that when these SOPs were initially established, they did not take into account the goals or objectives the processes should aim for. At most, they only describe the current operations and aim to deliver the expected result once the process is completed.
For instance, if we were to ask within all these work processes, which part influences customer satisfaction? Can we identify it?
And if all these parts contribute to customer satisfaction, which one is crucial? Is there no way to remedy it if something goes wrong? Or, if the company aims to reduce costs, which specific part is related to costs?
Businesses should develop SOPs with a “To-be” mindset.
When considering the questions mentioned above while developing work processes and SOPs, this approach in BPM is referred to as the “To-be” process.
In simple terms, it means that when we design a process, it is not just about documenting the current way of carrying out tasks. It also involves a deeper exploration of whether this approach can achieve goals and align with the company’s direction. To attain these objectives, what should the work processes ideally look like?
If the company considers this factor when creating processes or during annual reviews, then ideally, when everyone adheres to the workflow in their job execution, the company should ultimately be able to achieve its goals.
For instance, if a company aims to be the best employer for its employees, the HR department needs to assess all HR processes to see if they contribute to employee satisfaction.
Sometimes, it is not just about benefits; if the job tasks are cumbersome or overly complicated, it can also lead to employee dissatisfaction.
- Effectiveness Check: Are your SOPs Still Relevant?
- The 6 Most Common Organizational Problems without SOPs! How to Overcome Them?
- How many SOPs do you need in an organization?