Skip to main content Accessibility Feedback

There is a Place for Common Sense in Standardizing Operations

Image of robot headA recent article in Quality Digest:“Thinking and Adapting in the Context of Standardized Work” by Mark Graban raises a common myth we often hear: written standard operating procedures (SOPs) are too constraining and “robotic.”
In his article Graban rebuts this myth pointing out that “Standardized work isn’t “mindless conformity.”

He further reminds us that Bill Marriott had written the same thing in regard to his hotel chain.
Here at COMPROSE we can’t count the number of times we’ve heard people say: “We don’t need systems or written operating procedures; we pride ourselves in that fact that our employees have freedom in how they their jobs.” (in other words, SOPs are confining, impede freedom). However, these same organizations were struggling with serious errors, inefficiencies and miscommunications because of a lack of standard systems.

Recalling one such conversation still leaves us a little unsettled. It came from a manager of a healthcare organization that was experiencing severe, sometimes life-threatening errors and a high number of complaints. Yet, any mention of creating “structure” and operating standards was met with resistance.

As with anything, you can go overboard. You certainly don’t want to hamstring people. In his article Graban sites an interesting example of a situation where using your “brain” and common sense thinking is required!!

SOP best practice incorporates common sense. If you build the “right structure” you can free people up and give them the confidence to make the right decisions.

The operative phrase is “right structure.”

Once you get the mundane and routine handled, out of the way and “systemized”, everyone will FINALLY get to innovating and improving processes.

The COMPROSE Operations Mapping approach helps you break your operating procedures out into modular processes, procedures, and work instructions that you can easily link to relevant policies. Zavanta software creates reader-friendly “drill down” websites and company procedure manuals so your employees can accurate policy answers and standard operating procedures quickly and easily—making them more independent every day.