When SOPs are working as they should, a manager doesn’t need to give them a second thought. They are a proven way to bring consistency to every aspect of your organization — product quality, employee behavior, or other areas. Such consistency can ensure routine execution across the enterprise, helping to strengthen the brand, year in and year out.
In 2020, many organizations had to implement additional shifts, re-engineer processes to allow for social distancing among workers, and even accommodate employees working from home. At least for the short term, managers and line workers alike may be wrestling with unfamiliar functions, tasks, or equipment — and are often struggling to stay focused and productive. In the midst of all this disruption, new or updated SOPs are needed to ensure daily consistency and long-term competitiveness.
This kind of consistency has a strategic impact in any market, but especially in times like we’re going through now. For example, because volume is down in many industries, “getting it right” at every opportunity is more critical to retaining customers. Likewise, for those companies that are pivoting to develop new products, consistency in execution can help them get to market faster and more efficiently. In each of these scenarios, using SOPs to standardize execution can make all the difference.
Effective SOP development can also help you take advantage of emerging opportunities. For instance, although the pandemic has affected your operations, it’s also impacting your competitors as well. This is an opportunity: by developing new SOPs to reflect your updated workflows and executing according to your SOPs, you could win market share from competitors who are still struggling to work out a consistent process. Similarly, an effective SOP development approach can help your team move quickly to get a new or temporary location or facility into production … letting you get out ahead while the competition is essentially dead in the water.
SOPs provide an organization with a variety of highly strategic and competitive advantages — advantages that are especially critical right now:
- Staying in compliance. For organizations in regulated industries, SOPs are required to comply with workplace safety, environmental, food safety, security, commercial practices and other regulations. By revisiting your SOPs around your newest workflows, you’ll have easier interactions with regulators, and spend less time scrambling to prepare for their site visits.
- Out-performing on quality. Companies that have developed SOPs around new workflows in response to the pandemic have the added competitive advantage of turning out higher quality products at a time when others have NOT updated their own SOPs, and are struggling with inconsistent operations and product quality. What’s more, by ensuring greater consistency in employee behavior, you’ll also spend less time putting out fires and troubleshooting.
- Improving your bottom line. For companies in many industries, volume is significantly down across the board, in some cases leaving them strapped for cash. This has important implications. First, it means it’s never been more important to keep your existing customers happy, and maintaining consistent product quality is a great way to do so. It also means that you need to find savings wherever you can get them, and keeping your SOPs updated can help you minimize scrap and rework (not to mention, increase profitability).
This is a great time to revisit your SOPs
SOPs are definitely worth another look — now more than ever. It may not seem like the highest priority or the most cutting-edge business practice, but having a sound process for developing, updating, and disseminating SOPs can truly be a game-changer in any market. And it’s especially important in the current environment, when there is so much chaos and uncertainty. Employees are craving predictability, and companies need to pay extra attention to critical business drivers in order to remain competitive, whether in terms of production time, quality, scrap, cash, or other factors.
Updating a comprehensive set of SOPs can be daunting for a business. But when you consider the many strategic and competitive benefits that SOP development can provide across your organization, it’s worth the effort and resources — even if your internal team lacks the specialized skills or bandwidth.