Standard Operating Procedures

The Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) have a detailed description level. It has been said that they should be written so that you could take any person from the street and that person would be able do the correct thing by following the SOP.

However, this isn’t right: In order to be qualified to do anything in the industry, training is mandatory. Thus, the SOP must be written so that a trained person will know how to do the correct thing. People who experience their first QMS in the organization usually complain that they are losing their flexibility in the way they do their work. The reason is that many new quality systems include SOPs that have not been written in a good way. There is an art to writing SOPs so that work is done correctly when they are followed, while at the same time maintaining flexibility. The QMS isn’t complete without documentation to prove that it’s actually being followed. SOPs need to include requirements for how to document what has been done. For example: The SOP requires people to be trained in order to do a task. Therefore, the SOP must include a description of where and how to document training. The training records themselves will be proof that the SOP has been followed.

An SOP for SOPs

Any SOP system needs to have an ‘SOP for SOPs’. This might seem like a bureaucratic joke, but it is in fact quite a necessary tool in the SOP-writing process.

This SOP will explain how to write SOPs in general:

  • What the headers and footers look like
  • How the SOPs shall be named and numbered, and how to keep track of which numbers have been issued and which are still being written
  • Which formats to use for font types and font sizes
  • Who shall write the SOPs, approve them, and authorize them
  • How often the SOPs shall be reviewed for possible renewal
  • Which chapters are mandatory (usually scope, responsibilities, and application)
  • The description of the work to be done and which roles are responsible for that work
  • How the SOP history shall be described
  • How the SOPs shall be distributed and filed, and how to handle outdated/obsolete SOPs
  • How appendices shall be included, and what information can be presented in the appendix

…to be continued by SOPs for IT