It seemed obvious enough. I mean, I’ve been using these for as long as I can remember, but the other day I used the term SOP and somebody said “what’s that?”
An SOP, or “Standard Operating Procedure” is a collaborative tool I use in my organizations to build intellectual equity. Intellectual equity is what you get when you capture domain knowledge from wetware and make it persistent.
In order to better explain this, and make it more obvious and shareable, I offer you this SOP on SOPs. Enjoy!
This is an SOP about making SOPs.
It describes what an SOP looks like by example.
SOPs are files describing Standard Operating Procedures.
In general, the first thing in an SOP is a description of the SOP
including some text to make it easy to find - kind of like this one.
[ ] Create an SOP
An SOP is a kind of check list. It should be just detailed enough so
that a reasonably competent individual for a given task can use the
SOP to do the task most efficiently without missing any important
[ ] Store an SOP as a plain text file for use on any platform.
[ ] Be mindful of security concerns.
[ ] Try to make SOPs generic without making them obscure.
[ ] Be sure they are stored and accessed appropriately.
[ ] Some SOPs may not be appropriate for some groups.
[ ] Some SOPs might necessarily contain sensitive information.
[ ] Use square brackets to describe each step.
[ ] Indent to describe more specific (sub) steps such as below...
[ ] View thefile from the command line
[ ] cat theFile
Note: Sometimes you might want to make a note.
And, sometimes a step might be an example of what to type or
some other instruction to manipulate an interface. As long as
it's clear to the intended reader it's good but keep in mind
that this is a check list so each instruction should be
a single step or should be broken down into smaller pieces.
[ ] When leaving an indented step, skip a line for clarity.
< > If a step is conditional.
[ ] use angle brackets and list the condition.
[ ] Use parentheses (round brackets) to indicate exclusive options.
Note: Parentheses are reminiscent of radio buttons.
( ) You can do this thing or
( ) You can do this other thing or
( ) You can choose this third thing but only one at this level.
[ ] Use an SOP (best practice)
[ ] Make a copy of the SOP.
[ ] Save the copy with a unique name that fits with your workflow
[ ] Be consistent
[ ] Mark up the copy as you go through the process.
[ ] Check off each step as you proceed.
Note: This helps you (or someone) to know where you are in the
process if you get interrupted. That never happens right?!
[ ] Brackets with a space are not done yet.
[ ] Use a * to mark an unfinished step you are working on.
[ ] Use an x to mark a step that is completed.
[ ] Use a - to indicate a step you are intentionaly skipping.
[ ] Add notes when you do something unexpected.
< > If skipping a step - why did you skip it.
< > If doing steps out of order.
< > If you run into a problem and have to work around it.
< > If you think the SOP should be changed, why?
< > If you use different marks explain them at the top.
[ ] Make a legend for your marks.
[ ] Collaborate with the team so everybody will understand.
[ ] Add notes to include any important specific data.
[ ] User accounts or equipment references.
[ ] Parameters about this specific case.
[ ] Basically, any variable that "plugs in" to the process.
[ ] BE CAUTIOUS of anything that might be secure data.
[ ] Avoid putting passwords into SOPs.
[ ] Be sure they are stored and shared appropriately.
[ ] Some SOPs may require more security than others.
[ ] Some SOPs may be relevant only to special groups.
[ ] Use SOPs to capture intellectual equity!
[ ] Use SOPs for onboarding and other training.
[ ] Update your collection of SOPs over time as you learn.
[ ] Template/Master SOPs describe how things should be done.
[ ] Add SOPs when you learn something new.
[ ] Modify SOPs when you find a better process.
[ ] Delete SOPs when redundant, useless, or otherwise replaced.
[ ] Completed SOPs are a great resource.
[ ] Use them for after action reports.
[ ] Use them for research.
[ ] Use them for auditing.
[ ] Use them to track performance.
[ ] Use them as training examples.
[ ] Collaborate with team mates on any changes. M2B!
[ ] Referring to SOPs is a great way to discuss changes.
[ ] Referring SOPs keeps teams "on the same page."
[ ] Referring SOPs helps to develop a common language.
[ ] Create SOPs as a planning tool - then work the plan.
[ ] Keep SOPs accessible in some central place.
[ ] GIT is a great way to keep, share, and maintain SOPs.
[ ] An easily searchable repository is great (like GitTea?!)
[ ] Be mindful of security concerns.