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What is SOP?

Standard operating procedure

A standard operating procedure (SOP) is a set of step-by-step instructions compiled by an organization to help workers carry out complex routine operations. SOPs aim to achieve efficiency, quality output and uniformity of performance, while reducing miscommunication and failure to comply with industry regulations.

The military (e.g. in the U.S. and UK) sometimes uses the term standing (rather than standard) operating procedure because a military SOP refers to a unit's unique procedures, which are not necessarily standard to another unit. The word "standard" can imply that only one (standard) procedure is to be used across all units.

What is a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)?

An SOP is a procedure specific to your operation that describes the activities necessary to complete tasks in accordance with industry regulations, provincial laws or even just your own standards for running your business. Any document that is a “how to” falls into the category of procedures. In a manufacturing environment, the most obvious example of an SOP is the step by step production line procedures used to make products as well train staff.An SOP, in fact, defines expected practices in all businesses where quality standards exist. SOPs play an important role in your small business. SOPs are policies, procedures and standards you need in the operations, marketing and administration disciplines within your business to ensure success. These can create:•efficiencies, and therefore profitability•consistency and reliability in production and service•fewer errors in all areas•a way to resolve conflicts between partners•a healthy and safe environment•protection of employers in areas of potential liability and personnel matters•a roadmap for how to resolve issues – and the removal of emotion from troubleshooting – allowing needed focus on solving the problem•a first line of defense in any inspection, whether it be by a regulatory body, a partner or potential partner, a client, or a firm conducting due diligence for a possible purchase•value added to your business should you ever wish to sell it

16 Essential Steps to Writing Standard Operating Procedures

Writing standard operating procedures: a quick how-to guide

Step 1: Understand how you are going to present your SOPs

There are a number of formats you can choose from when defining how you’ll structure and present your standard operating procedures. The international standard you probably use if you work in a large company is ISO-9000, or some variant of that.


As we go forward with the article, we’ll be keeping things broadly in line with ISO-9000, but we’ll also build off that foundation. A solopreneur might want something a little different, and as good as the ISO method is for documenting SOPs, it has limitations in regards to how actionable it is. We’ll look to improve on that with the use of tools and tech!

For anyone who wants to stick as closely as possible to the ISO-9000 structure, I’ve built this structured template below which you can start using right now.

Guidance for Preparing Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)


2.1 SOP Preparation

The organization should have a procedure in place for determining what procedures or processes need to be documented. Those SOPs should then be written by individuals knowledgeable with the activity and the organization's internal structure. These individuals are essentially subject-matter experts who actually perform the work or use the process. A team approach can be followed, especially for multi-tasked processes where the experiences of a number of individuals are critical, which also promotes “buy-in” from potential users of the SOP. SOPs should be written with sufficient detail so that someone with limited experience with or knowledge of the procedure, but with a basic understanding, can successfully reproduce the procedure when unsupervised. The experience requirement for performing an activity should be noted in the secti