Best Standard operating procedure (SOP)

Standard operating procedure


A standard operating procedure (SOP) is a document containing detailed instructions outlining the steps to be followed to carry out a routine activity. These instructions ensure that the activity is performed consistently and in accordance with industry regulations and organisational standards. It is essential to adhere to SOPs precisely each time to maintain consistency and compliance.


Standard operating procedures (SOPs) are essential components of organisational success as they offer the necessary policies, processes, and standards. They contribute to the improvement of businesses by minimizing errors, enhancing efficiency and profitability, fostering a safe working environment, and providing guidance on problem-solving and overcoming challenges.

How to write a standard operating procedure


An effective standard operating procedure (SOP) should clearly outline the steps necessary to complete a task and identify any associated risks for employees. The manual should be concise and easy to comprehend, emphasising the method of conducting tasks rather than simply listing them. After drafting the SOP, it should be regularly reviewed and updated every six to twelve months to ensure its relevance to the organisation’s standards and requirements, with any modifications documented.

Prior to creating the SOP, authors should conduct a risk assessment of each step in the procedure to identify potential obstacles and associated risks.


Key questions that should be addressed in a standard operating procedure (SOP) include:

  • Who is responsible for each role?
  • What are the specific responsibilities of each role?
  • What is the intended goal or outcome of each role’s responsibilities?
  • Have the necessary actions been clearly outlined and explained?

Standard operating procedure To determine which procedures would benefit from an SOP, organisations should compile a list of all their business processes. Managers should engage in discussions with employees to understand their daily duties and tasks, ensuring that all procedures are accounted for. Any tasks that are performed repeatedly by multiple employees should be considered for SOP development.

Step 1: Clearly define the objective of the task and justify why it requires a standard operating procedure (SOP).


The initial step in crafting a standard operating procedure involves defining the objective of the task and comprehending the reasons behind the necessity for an SOP.


Step 2: Determine format for SOP


Next, the author must decide on the format for the SOP. Sometimes, an organization provides a premade template, while other times authors create their own. Examples of formats include:

  • Flowchart or workflow diagram: Suitable for procedures with various outcomes.
  • Simple steps: Typically presented as a bulleted or numbered list, suitable for short and straightforward procedures.
  • Hierarchical steps: Also presented as a bulleted or numbered list, suitable for procedures with multiple steps and decisions.

Once a format is chosen, the author must decide if the SOP will be available as a hard copy or online.


Step 3: Identify the dependencies of the task.

The third step involves identifying any dependencies associated with the task. This includes determining if the task relies on other procedures within the organization. The author must then decide how to incorporate these dependencies into the new SOP or whether to integrate the new SOP into existing ones.

Following this, the author should identify the target audience to determine the appropriate writing style for the SOP. For instance, an SOP intended for employees with prior knowledge will differ significantly from one designed for new hires.

Once these decisions are made, the author can proceed with writing the SOP. It’s essential to use a present verb tense and active voice while writing. The use of the word “you” should be avoided but implied. If the organisation provides a style guide, the author should adhere to it.

Components of an SOP

The standard operating procedure should include:

  • Title page: This page lists the procedure’s title, specifies the intended audience (such as a specific role, department, team, or agency), includes the SOP identification number, and provides the names and signatures of the individuals who prepared and approved the manual.
  • Table of contents: This section provides easy access to the various sections within large SOPs, enabling users to quickly navigate through the document.
  • Step-by-step procedures: This section comprises a detailed list of procedures, including explanations of the task’s goal, delineation of roles and responsibilities, overview of regulatory requirements, clarification of terminology, descriptions of the actions required to complete each step, and discussions of decisions that need to be made. This segment typically constitutes the bulk of the SOP.

Once the draft of the SOP has been written, it should undergo multiple rounds of review, editing, and testing. This iterative process should continue until an SOP is developed that receives approval from all stakeholders. Subsequently, the finalized SOP can be distributed to all individuals who require it to perform their job duties.

It is crucial to allow all individuals who will be using the SOP to review the manual throughout the writing process. This ensures that all necessary steps are included and that the final document accurately reflects the procedures to be followed.

SOP best practices

  • Here are some best practice suggestions for writing and using standard operating procedures (SOPs):
  • Establish Consistent Style and Format: Use simple, clear language and maintain a consistent style and format across all SOPs to enhance understanding and readability.
  • Include Table of Contents: Incorporate a table of contents to help employees easily navigate through the SOP and locate specific information.
  • Centralise SOPs Online: Store all SOPs in a centralised online location to facilitate easy access, updates, and distribution to employees.
  • Implement Review and Maintenance Plan: Develop a systematic review and maintenance plan to ensure that SOPs remain relevant, accurate, and up-to-date. Regularly review and update SOPs as needed to reflect changes in processes or regulations.
  • Distribute and Train Employees: Develop a plan for distributing SOPs to employees and providing training on the procedures outlined in the SOPs. Ensure that employees receive initial orientation training and regular refresher training to reinforce understanding and compliance with SOPs.
  • Foster Continuous Improvement: Encourage feedback from employees on SOPs and incorporate suggestions for improvement. Foster a culture of continuous improvement to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of SOPs over time.

By following these best practices, organisations can ensure that their SOPs are effective tools for guiding employees in performing routine tasks and maintaining consistency in operations.

Standard operating procedure 


Standard operating procedures (SOPs) serve various purposes within organisations, helping them improve efficiency, ensure compliance, and maintain safety standards. Here are some reasons to use SOPs:

  • Maintaining Schedule Adherence: SOPs help employees adhere to predefined schedules, ensuring that tasks are completed in a timely manner and productivity is maximised.
  • Employee Training: SOPs serve as valuable training tools for new employees, providing them with clear instructions on how to perform tasks correctly and efficiently.
  • Ensuring Compliance: SOPs outline specific procedures and protocols that must be followed to ensure compliance with industry regulations, company policies, and quality standards.
  • Environmental Impact: SOPs may include guidelines and procedures aimed at minimising the environmental impact of operations, such as waste management or resource conservation measures.
  • Employee Safety: SOPs include safety protocols and procedures to ensure the well-being of employees, minimising the risk of accidents and injuries in the workplace.
  • Preventing Failures: By standardising procedures and protocols, SOPs help prevent errors, reduce variability, and minimise the risk of manufacturing or operational failures.

It’s important to note that SOPs are essential even when other methods or guidelines are available. They provide detailed instructions and explanations that may not be covered in other published content. 

Additionally, SOPs require diligent enforcement and monitoring by management to ensure employees follow them consistently. Supervisors should regularly oversee the use of SOPs to verify compliance and address any issues that may arise.

Benefits of using a standard operating procedure

In addition to consistency and error reduction, standard operating procedures (SOPs) offer several other benefits to organisations. SOPs can enhance communication by ensuring that any changes to tasks or processes are promptly updated and communicated to relevant stakeholders. 

This helps streamline communication channels and reduce the chance of miscommunication, as the detailed steps leave little room for ambiguity or confusion. Moreover, SOPs facilitate the evaluation of employee performance, as they provide clear guidelines for tasks and processes, making it easier to assess adherence and efficiency. 

Furthermore, SOPs contribute to time and cost savings by optimising workflows and minimising the occurrence of errors or inefficiencies. Additionally, by establishing standardised procedures and safety protocols, SOPs help create a safer work environment for employees, reducing the risk of accidents or incidents.

Standard operating procedure examples


Another example of SOP utilisation can be observed in a manufacturing setting, where SOPs meticulously document production line procedures. These documents serve as valuable resources for training employees and ensuring consistent product quality.

Similarly, SOPs find application in finance or administrative environments, where they outline processes for accurate customer billing and payment collection. By detailing these procedures, SOPs help maintain financial integrity and efficiency within the organisation.

Another application of standard operating procedures is evident in customer service, sales, and marketing departments. SOPs play a crucial role in delineating service delivery processes, response times, and protocols for managing customer complaints and feedback. Moreover, they guide the preparation of sales quotes, ensuring consistency and efficiency in sales operations.

Banks utilize SOPs to establish procedures for identifying customers and complying with regulatory requirements. Similarly, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) relies on SOPs to verify that companies adhere to agency standards in their operations.

Furthermore, SOPs serve as valuable tools for training employees in tasks such as collecting, tracking, and storing key performance indicator (KPI) reports, as well as ensuring a consistent experience for new client onboarding.

Lastly, SOPs are instrumental in employee hiring and training processes, ensuring consistency in orientation and training procedures across the organisation. They also provide guidance to managers in routine tasks such as disciplinary actions, corrective measures, and performance reviews.


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