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How to Write Standard Operating Procedures

This is Part 13 in our series on writing Standard Operating Procedures. If you've missed the first five, sign up for the newsletter and the whole set of tutorials will be sent to you automatically.

How to Organize Standard Operating Procedures

Next up, write the procedure. First, let's take a deep breath and see where we are.

So far, we've:

  • Shared our vision with the Management team so they understand how all Departments, Business Units, Customers and Staff will benefit from this activity. Getting support from Management is crucial as their support will give the project the attention it deserves especially when you hit bottlenecks.
  • Defined a writing process for the procedure writers and those involved in all associated procedure-related activities, for example, testing that the procedures work as per the instructions. Note that some procedures can only be tested in a live environment and need to be managed with care.
  • Gathered the documents, process maps, flowcharts, and other material we needed to assess the procedure
    Interviewed those who use the procedure in a working environment, for example, the Call Centre staff if you're writing Technical Support procedures.
  • Interviewed those who prepared the current procedure and asked for their recommendations on how it could be improved.
  • Collated all the material on the shared server (maybe password protected if you're concerned that others are too curious about works in progress.)
  • Updated the Project Stakeholders every week with Status Reports.
  • Sent reminders to other parties that you will need time with their staff in the coming weeks. Always give advance notice. You're colleagues have their schedules too.

Structure the Writing Project

Large companies have libraries of SOP templates for such projects. They will also have invested in Style Guides, Writing Manuals and other materials to assist their writing teams.

If you don't have these, buy some professional Procedure templates on the web so you can hit the ground running. Make sure the templates work on your PCs, are easy to modify and within budget.

Of course, you can always create your own 每 choose whichever is most cost effective. Time lost is money lost. Use common sense and get started.

How to Write Procedures

This week we will look at how procedure writing at a high level. In the coming weeks, we will drill down and show you how to write procedures from scratch.

Before you start writing, do the following.

  • Naming Convention 每 Establish a Naming Convention for the documents. Think ahead. If you have 200 procedures to manage, what naming convention would work best to track the documents.
  • Web Friendly 每 Remember, SOPs may also be published to the Internet, so use a system that is intuitive and easy to follow. Don't get too esoteric!
  • Share 每 Create a Shared Drive where all the writers can post the documents. Password protect the drive, if necessary.
  • Style Guides- Invest in Style Guides and other support material. Make sure there are enough copies to go around. Some will hog the guides and resist sharing.
  • Templates 每 Develop a set of easy-to-use templates. Don't make them so complex that writers need to be trained to use them. Keep it simple and assume that others (non-team members) will use the same templates to update the procedures.

Tip: Number each procedure. Use Excel to record and track each procedure.

Tell me more about Naming Conventions!

Instead of calling the document, Health Procedure.doc, give it a more meaningful title. For example, ACME-Pharma-F-SOP-05052009.

ACME refers to the name of the company or client or project
Pharma refers to this division within the company
F refers to Final. D can be used for Draft.
SOP refers to the document type.
05052009 is the date the document was signed off.

Using a naming convention will allow you to retrieve documents faster, especially if you have multiple versions of the same document all with different sign off dates. You want to avoid making the reader open each document to determine the version numbers.

If you use MS Word, use the File, Properties option to add further information, such as keywords, Author name, and other comments.

Table of Contents

  1. Before you Start Writing Your Standard Operating Procedures
  2. How To Find Procedure Writers
  3. How to Get a Budget
  4. How To Cost The SOP Project
  5. How to Get Management Support For Your SOP Project
  6. How to Find An Executive Champion
  7. How To Setup the Procedure Writing Team
  8. How To Define Roles in the Procedure Writing Team
  9. How to Create SOP Writing Guidelines
  10. How to Organize the Information Gathering Phase
  11. How to Test the Current As Is Business Process
  12. How to Examine Alternatives To The Current As Is Process
  13. How to Write Standard Operating Procedures
  14. How to Write Your First Procedure
  15. How to Number Each Step in the Procedure
  16. How To Capture Exceptions in Procedures
  17. How to Use If Then Tables For Complex Procedures
  18. How to Test Standard Operating Procedures
  19. How to Get SMEs to Test Procedures
  20. How & When to Sign Off the Procedure
  21. How to Publish the Standard Operating Procedures
  22. How to Control Documents
  23. How to Use Track Changes
  24. How to Use Naming Conventions
  25. How to Convert SOPs to PDF
  26. How to Upload SOPs to the Document Management System
  27. How to Create a SOP Document Archive
  28. How to Backup SOPs Archives & Store Offsite
  29. How to Implement Procedures
  30. How to Schedule Assessments
Standard Operating Procedure Template - Download Now Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) Template
Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) Template Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) Template

Document Control

  • Process Improvement - writing SOPs provides opportunities to refine current processes. Feedback received during this activity helps identify limitation of the current processes and potential problems that may arise.

Document Control

  • Regulatory requirements - SOPs help address legislative and regulatory requirements. Developing and maintaining SOPs is an effective way to address safe work practice regulations.
  • Staff Performance - SOPs clearly describe what staff are expected to perform in the workplace. SOPs remove ambiguity and provide an objective mechanism for evaluating their performance.
  • Standardization - SOPs identify roles and responsibilities. SOPs clarify decision-making requirements and chain of commands.

Clarifications Spreadsheet

  • Training material - SOPs can be used in training programs, workshops and exercises. SOPs improve the understanding of work requirements and identify potential problems.

Buy this template

Download the SOP Template Pack

The templates included in this pack are in Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel format. You can download all templates online for only $9.99.

More details about the SOP template pack are here.

The template pack includes the following documents:

SOP Template (Detailed) 7 pages Download Word template
SOP Single Template 1 pages Download Word template
SOP Guidebook 11 pages Download Word template
Sample - RFP Pre-Issuance Procedure 7 pages Download Word template
SOP Log Book 7 pages Download Word template
SOP Document Control 3 pages Excel templates
  • Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) Manual - this is used for writing and maintaining multiple SOPs, for example, all SOPs for the HR Department.
  • Standard Operating Procedures template - this is used for writing and maintaining standalone SOPs.
  • Standard Operating Procedures Guidebook - this describes how to write SOPs. The guidebook includes the following sections:
    • Planning
    • Requirements
    • Writing Standard Operating Procedures
    • Level of Detail
    • Consistency
    • Writing Style and Language
    • Writing Conventions
    • Numerical Information
    • Component Information
    • Procedure Titles
    • Headings
    • Step Numbering
    • Procedure Organization
    • Revision Status
    • Precautions and Limitations
    • Prerequisites
    • Terms, Definitions, Acronyms, and Abbreviations
    • Writing Action Steps
    • Writing Conditional Action Steps
  • Standard Operating Procedures Log Book - this is used for controlling new SOPs, numbering SOPs, and ensuring that all SOPs are authorized before creation.
  • Excel spreadsheets - these 3 Excel files will help you manage document control, clarifications that arise during the analysis phase and monitoring roles and responsibilities.
  • Sample template - this sample template documents the pre-issuance procedure when developing Request for Proposals.

Document Control

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Supports Windows 98, 2000, 2003, 2007, 2010, XP, Vista & Apple Mac

* Note: All prices are in US$ and for a single user license.


Q: What file formats are the templates?

A: Microsoft Word and Excel. The files work in Word 97-2010. They also work on Apple Macintosh. 

Q: How soon can I download them?

A: You can download the files instantly.

After you pay online, you are automatically sent to a page where you can download the templates online.

Q: What is the End User License Agreement?

A: You can read the License Agreement here

Need to know more?

Drop me a line at ivan at klariti dot com and I'll get back to you asap.

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