Boosting Service Provision With Standard Operating Procedures

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Angela’s mother has insisted that her Seven years old learns how to cook rice. Standing beside her mother, Angela watches her go through the process and after that her mother records every step she took and the relevant time intervals. When she is late from work the next day, using her notes, Angela prepares rice for family.

What is Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)?

It has been defined as a set of written rules designed to help all employees deliver the same optimum performance in a repetitive and uniform manner. Historically and as is the case with many business concepts, Businesses adopted the use of SOPs following years of its successful use in the military both for training and operational purposes.

One of such example of the successful use of SOPs is at the Naval Special Warfare Training Centre where American Navy Seals have been trained since 1963. The Navy Seals are one of the most effective and efficient Military Special Operations Groups in the world and are deployed to undertake the most difficult and high-risk tasks in military operations. Every Seal undergoes a 30 month intensive training including (Basic Underwater Demolition/Seal) and the SOPs used for these trainings guarantees that everyone is exposed to almost the same rigors as they would face in real-life situations. As a result, the Navy Seal has achieved a steady output of only the most physically and mentally fit personnel to be ready for deployment at any given moment.

Unlike the case of Angela and the Navy Seals, in the business of providing services, the end products are intangible and measured only after sale and utilization by the client. This puts premium on the need for SOPs which helps a company ensure that only the best service is delivered to a client by any of itsemployees at every given time.

What are the features of SOPs for a Service Provider?

REFLECTS THE SPECIFIC TRANSACTIONAL IMPERATIVES OF THE BUSINESS: As far as it is practicable, SOPs for Service Providers must identify every activity of the business and specifically indicate how it must be carried out. An activity as diminutive as choosing specific font styles for letters, emails and other correspondences should be indicated in the SOP if the company is convinced it has marketing/sales implications for its outward projection. The generally accepted drafting style for SOPs would firstly indicate the general policy on a specific subject and subsequently state the process by which it must be achieved.

INCORPORATES REGULATORY DIRECTIVES: Where a Service company operates within a regulated sector and is required to make certain returns and or conduct its business in a certain way, it is desirable that the draftsmen of the SOP take those into consideration to ensure seamless compliance.

MUST BE CONCISE, CLEAR AND IN SIMPLE LANGUAGE: SOPs are for all categories of employees and that dictates that its language has to be easy to read, understand and remember. Catch words and phrases should be used to discuss complex but important topics and abbreviations should be coined where necessary.

MUST HAVE TEMPLATES: These are samples of documents which the SOPs envisages that an employee will produce in the course of his work. An SOPs must have such samples.

CONTAINS INFORMATION ON CERTIFICATION AND AUTHORIZATION: Within the corporate structure of companies, the content of an SOPs can only be certified and authorized by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the company or anyone/group carrying his mandate for that purpose. To this end, SOPs are usually prefaced with such a Letter from the CEO.

MUST BE A COMPLIMENTARY FIT WITH THE COMPANY’S STAFF HANDBOOK: SOPs are not in themselves self-sufficient as they do not contain provisions for rewards and or sanctions. Therefore, the company’s Staff Handbook ought to incorporate SOPs by reference. This will provide a basis for creating a binding contract between the employee and the company on the SOP

SOPs ARE LIVING DOCUMENTS: This simply means that they should be amenable to changes dictated by new business realities.

Some of the benefits of SOPs include the following:

1. Reduces learning curve and training time for new employees.
2. Standardizes every aspect of business operations.
3. Guarantees Business continuity
4. Allows for ease of delegation of functions.
5. Ensures quality control.

The biggest beneficiary from the use of SOPs is the employee. Just like the case of Angela, while her mother may enjoy temporary relief from the kitchen, Angela’s notes will aid her journey to becoming a good cook and she could pass her knowledge/material to her own daughters in the future. Also, Jocko Willink was a Navy Seal and received a Silver Star and Bronze Star for his role in the war in Iraq. Since leaving the military, he has become a very successful Author on leadership, discipline and fulfilment of goals. His recent book; Discipline Equals Freedom published in October 2017 has made him New York Times’ Bestselling Author.

The point to note is that while organizations remain the biggest beneficiaries when employees internalize the requirements of SOPs, the primary outcome to be expected is that these employees will become better professionals and this is primarily to their advantage before anything else.

Abdulghani Arobo
Head, Legal and Compliance
Mobile: (+234) 7054004641, (+234) 1 4615234-5

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