When I was in college, enrolled in a 300-level economics class, I tried my best to immerse myself in the study of resources and decision-making, wealth and scarcity. In truth, everyone in the class was fixated on when the professor might wash his shirt. Every lecture, when he turned to write on the board (Yes, this was a few years back.), a still-crisp price tag fluttered proudly from his right armpit.
We all made it to the end of the semester without the price tag dematerializing, and it could be there to this day. My point being – no one wants to be that professor, the last to know.
If your organization needs to begin documenting procedures, you should know. The symptoms are way more obvious than snickering in the back row:
You know that you need to write standard operating procedures (SOPs), but have not started. Carving out time is always a problem. Maybe that problem is compounded by a dislike of writing, or lack of confidence. I have a solution to help all three issues.
Start with a standard operating procedure template.
Experts on a process are the best people to write a standard operating procedure. Being an expert gets you 80% of the way to success. That last 10% of the success is writing, which comes easier to some people than others.
Even the best writers can benefit from the structure that standard operating procedure templates offer. The last thing any SOP writer needs is to waste time muddling over document structure. That wheel has been invented, and you have valuable information to get down!
SOPs guide activities as diverse as running a frozen yogurt franchise to launching powerful operational rockets. Online SOP templates can help you include the sections that your activity especially needs. For example, a research safety template might need a Disposal and Cleanup section, while a rocket launch template needs Pre and Post Launch sections.
Use your favorite search engine to filter the vast internet down to SOP templates for your industry. You are sure to find an abundance of information. For every industry, the internet offers slightly varied templates.
If you are writing standard operating procedures for compliance, be sure to search for templates to help you meet that standard. You can find lots of advice to help with the granddaddy of compliance, the FDA, including some from the FDA, itself, here. You can also find suggested templates for the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), here. If you contract to the Department of Defense (DOD), you probably need to become accredited per FedRAMP. That program offers templates here.
I wanted to include ITAR, but it looked like all the links were to competitors. Can you find ITAR template info?
Industry or compliance-specific templates can help you include the sections and standard operating procedure checklists that you need.
Despite the need to add sections for your industry or compliance goals, basic SOP structure remains fairly consistent. Every SOP should provide certain basic information.
Generally, standard operating procedure templates follow a structure similar to this list: