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SOPs for Process Improvement? Absolutely!

OperationsMapping for process improvementRecently an Executive coach we’ve been working with commented about how our Operations Mapping method – linking processes to detailed standard operating procedures, work instructions and policies — is a perfect fit for improving organizational performance, process improvement and re-engineering applications. We agree. Our clients do too.

Yet, some people resist this idea.

The resistance may be linked to the misconception that standardized procedures are useless paperwork or at best are expensive door stops (if I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard that… ) (“Bad” SOPs do make good doorstops—especially if they are in white binders!) Thinking about SOPs only in terms of “documenting” and record keeping instead of looking at SOP development as an exercise in examining and understanding how your business works is old-fashioned thinking.

It may also be semantics. We recently worked with a client to develop a “process map” for automating one of their core processes. At the beginning, the client was adamant about not wanting to get into SOPs or procedural “details.” They thought they only needed to look at the “Big Picture.” However, the high-level process map ended up being very complex because the client kept adding more and more detail as they thought through the processes they needed to make automation decisions.

Surprisingly, it was the discussions about the detailed procedures the client started out not wanting to consider that revealed the fact that some managers had no clue what was really going on! And that was the biggest problem they were facing.

Standard operating procedures (SOPs) are often overlooked as a key element of Process improvement (process re-engineering). Process re-engineering typically needs to go beyond what’s on a high-level process map. And its not always just about process automation. “People-based” operations can be improved through re-engineering too.

Mapping out your “as is” processes and SOPs is the first step in any process improvement initiative because it makes your “people operations” visible. You can’t improve what you can’t see.

To learn more about how you can build accountability in to your organization and streamline operations, see Operations Mapping on the COMPROSE site.