Process, Procedure and The Human Factor

Last night I watched on PBS the 10 Modern Marvels that Changed America. It was about the building of the Hoover Dam, our interstate highway system and eight other major design-build projects that were revolutionary even to this day.  What amazed me wasn’t only the brilliance of the engineers that designed these significant feats, but the contractors and tradesmen that risked life and limb to bring these designs to reality.  The projects ranged from 1825 with the Erie Canal to the 2005 New Orleans Risk Reduction System.  It is incredible how far we have come with technology, materials and equipment yet the human factor is still always the great unknown, no matter the size of the project.   The human factor determines whether the plan, regardless of how reliable it is, will be followed or someone chooses to make a change without communicating with the others on the team.

Perhaps you relate to experiencing the situation where personnel that join your team decides on their own to change a process before they fully understand the business and why that process is in place.  They might think the change is minor and for the better, but without discussing with others first, the impact on others and the business itself can take its toll.  The biggest challenge is for leadership to regain trust in that individual and not fear that they will head in their own direction again, not communicating to see if there is a process already established and the why’s behind the process in place.

Lee Iacocca, the world-famous business leader, said “Start with good people, lay out the rules, communicate with your employees, motivate them and reward them. If you do all those things effectively, you can’t miss.” I believe the word “rules” here refers to what we call today Standard Operating Procedures or SOP’s.

The best way to implement Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s) and maintain the consistency throughout your organization requires the following.

  1. Baseline procedures established, buy-in and sign off on by leadership within your organization.
  2. Proper labeling, filing and protocol to when the processes are reviewed and updated.
  3. Training for all personnel on all SOP’s that they need to know.
  4. Scheduled Spot checking on SOP’s for accountability
  5. Disciplinary action for those that are not following SOP’s and their supervisors who are responsible for making sure they are trained and following company SOP’s.

Yes, establishing the SOP program takes time.  It also requires one person to spearhead and facilitate working with each department head within your company to review current SOP’s, evaluate if those SOP’s are best practice and develop a training, accountability and review program for SOP’s.

What are the advantages of having clear, up to date SOP’s?

  1. You protect your company from loss; financial and safe workplace
  2. You can control the quality and consistency of your services and products
  3. You protect yourself from the stress of not knowing
  4. You attract and maintain employees better
  5. You can more easily evaluate employee performance as you have a consistent measurement tool
  6. You can measure and control quality, schedules and budgets
  7. You prepare your business for growth, expansion or to attract a buyer
  8. It allows you freedom away from your business

It is not recommended that you pick someone within your organization to lead this process because you trust them, like them or think they need something to do.  To be successful in developing your baseline SOP’s, implementing and maintaining them you need someone who is passionate about taking on this important role and will stay dedicated.  They must have excellent communication skills, excellent interpersonal skills and experience with developing effective processes within an organization.  Often, it is an employee who has expressed interest in spear-heading process improvement, an outside consultant or a new hire that has previous experience with process improvement projects.  A qualified person that is establishing all new relationships may have the ability to stay neutral and facilitate everyone’s voice into the SOP’s while focusing on what is best for the company versus someone who may have already formed relationship opinions.  An existing leader asking for this role is often doing so as they want to see the company improve, but they may need your help getting those that are not as process driven to support their efforts.

Below is an SOP for creating SOP’s along with the upcoming date that you can watch the 10 Modern Marvels that Changed America.  I hope it will make you appreciate how far our industry has come. I also hope the next time you fear the unknown of what is happening at your office or job sites you will be inspired to invest in reviewing the SOP’s within your organization.  We are always here to help you find the person to help you with the project if you need us.

Wishing you peace in knowing the process,

Suzanne Breistol


Download SOP Guideline and Template

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