How to Create Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for your Business

Processes & SOP's
How to Create Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for your Business
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Published by
Mike Bandar
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    Creating Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) is essential for the growth and efficiency of any business. SOPs ensure consistency, streamline operations, and empower your team to work independently and effectively. In this guide, we'll explore why SOPs are important, the steps to create them, and tips and tricks to get started. We'll also provide links to useful resources, including SOP templates and examples, and discuss how Waybook can help you house and share your SOPs.

    What is a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)?

    An SOP, or Standard Operating Procedure, is a detailed, written set of instructions designed to guide employees through routine tasks. Think of a collection of SOPs as a playbook for your business operations, an employee manual for your team. It ensures that every task is performed consistently and efficiently, regardless of who is performing it. SOPs cover various aspects of business operations, from customer service protocols to manufacturing processes.

    Imagine a café where the baristas have different methods for making a latte. One barista steams the milk too hot, while another uses too much foam. The result is inconsistency in the customer experience. By having an SOP for making a latte, the café ensures that every barista follows the same steps, resulting in a consistent and high-quality product.

    Find more about the key differences between an SOP, Process, Procudure and a Policy in this article.

    Key Elements of an SOP:

    SOPs come in all different shapes and sizes but best practice guides them to usually having these fundamental elements:

    • Title: Clearly describes the activity.
    • Purpose: Explains why the SOP is needed.
    • Scope: Defines what the SOP covers and what it doesn’t.
    • Responsibilities: Specifies who is responsible for each step.
    • Procedure: Provides detailed, step-by-step instructions.
    • Resources: Lists any tools or materials needed.
    • Definitions: Clarifies any jargon or acronyms used.
    • Review and Approval: Includes a section for acceptance, agreement or confirmation that the SOP has been reviewed and approved. It should also outline who owns the knowledge in the SOP to keep it updated.

    Why SOPs Are Important for Businesses?

    Imagine trying to set up flat pack furniture without a manual. Every time you pick up or plank you're guessing where it goes, what screws to use and how to do it. Even when it's fully assembled, without knowing how its constructed means its almost impossible to fix it when its broken or if you need to build another one. Now imagine you have 50 people all trying to do the same thing in different ways. The chaos and inconsistency is real, and that isn't far from what happens in our businesses when teams are carrying our activities in different ways. SOPs benefit the business, team members and customers, ultimately enabling the business faster and more efficiently when its running like a well oiled machine.

    Consistency and Quality Control

    Inconsistent processes lead to varying outputs, which can be detrimental to customer satisfaction and brand reputation. For example, if your customer service team handles complaints differently, customers might receive unequal resolutions, causing frustration. SOPs standardize these processes, ensuring every task is performed consistently, maintaining high quality regardless of who is handling it.

    Efficiency and Productivity

    Consider a bakery where each baker has their own method for making bread. The variations not only waste time but also ingredients. By documenting the best practices in an SOP, the bakery can streamline its operations, reduce waste, and boost productivity. SOPs make complex tasks straightforward, saving time and resources.

    Simplify Training and Onboarding

    Onboarding new employees can be time-consuming and inconsistent. A well-documented SOP acts as a training guide, helping new hires understand their roles quickly and perform their tasks efficiently. For instance, a legal practice with a series of core SOPs for new Paralegals can onboard new hires by them focusing on the 'how tos' within their role, reducing onboarding time by up to 80% and enable client interaction and get to billable time sooner.

    Enable Knowledge Retention

    When experienced employees leave, they take valuable knowledge with them, leaving gaps in the workflow. SOPs capture this knowledge, preserving it within the organization. This ensures that new employees can pick up where their predecessors left off, maintaining operational continuity. It's also a great way of building a stronger understand across the business of your entire team's operations

    Unlock Compliance and Safety

    In many industries like healthcare and manufacturing, compliance with regulations and safety standards is critical. SOPs provide clear guidelines for maintaining compliance, reducing the risk of legal issues and workplace accidents. Not only are they essential for keeping everyone safe, having well documented SOPs simplifies providing necessary information for audit or compliance bodies.

    Seven Steps to Create Effective SOPs

    Creating effective SOPs involves several key steps. Here's a detailed guide on the essential seven steps to help you develop SOPs that enhance your business operations. Breaking down and following these seven steps reduces the overwhelm of of creating an entire business playbook from scratch. We highly recommend separating this creation process into these different steps to build clear and consistent SOPs.

    Step 1: Identify Processes Needing SOPs

    Start by identifying the processes that need to be standardized. Focus on tasks that are repetitive, crucial for business operations, and prone to errors or inconsistencies. Engage with your team to list these tasks. This collaborative approach ensures that you capture all essential processes and get buy-in from those who will use the SOPs.

    Example: In a restaurant, repetitive tasks like food preparation, order taking, and inventory management are prime candidates for SOPs.

    Step 2: Gather Information

    Next, is focused on gathering detailed information about each process. When creating SOPs generally this knowledge already lives somewhere in the business, often in people's heads. Often interviewing the employees who perform these tasks regularly to understand the steps involved, tools used, and any challenges they face is a great start. Documenting their insights thoroughly before trying to write the perfect SOP is a great way of ensuring the 'right' information is central to the SOP and creates a nice opportunity to optimize the procedure before getting lost in how we explain it.

    Step 3: Write the SOP

    Now the information has been gathered in its rawest form begin writing the SOP using clear, concise language. Break down each process into step-by-step instructions. Use bullet points or numbered lists for clarity. Include elements such as title, purpose and scope. It's always much better to use clear and unambiguous terms and always think beyond text where possible. With tools like Waybook you can use a range of different media to best demonstrate the information, including images, video, checklists, file attachments.

    Step 4: Review and Test the SOP

    Before finalizing the SOP, review it with team members who will use it. Have them follow the instructions to ensure clarity and completeness. Gather feedback and make necessary revisions.

    The real test here is getting the SOP in front of someone who doesn't usually complete that activity to see how easily they can follow and execute.

    Throughout this step think carefully about what clarifying questions people are asking and where confusion arises so you can edit the SOP to be clearer and easier to follow.

    Step 5: Implement and Train

    Once the SOP is finalized, the game is focused on implementing it across your organization. To truly unlock the power of SOPs its important to train your employees on the knowledge you're sharing, to manage this effectively think about the core pieces of knowledge and understanding you'd like to test to confirm your teams understanding. All of which can be instantly created with AI using Waybook's test creator. Ensure they understand the importance of following the procedures and encourage them to provide feedback for continuous improvement.

    Step 6: Centralize and Share

    Centralize your SOPs in a structured and accessible format. Waybook is an excellent tool for this purpose. It allows you to create, manage, and share SOPs effortlessly, ensuring everyone in your organization has access to the latest procedures. Removing the friction between you team and the knowledge is essential to ensure that your team interact with the centralized and consistent information rather than asking questions which not only consumes management time but often results in inconsistent outputs. Think about how you can best integrate access to your knowledge through integrations with you work's chat system, searching via Waybook's browser extension or mobile apps.

    Step 7: Review and Update Regularly

    Regularly review and update your SOPs to keep them relevant and effective. Business processes evolve, and your SOPs should too. Schedule periodic reviews and make updates as needed to reflect changes in your operations or industry standards.

    As a top tip set a quarterly review schedule to ensure all SOPs are up-to-date and reflect the latest best practices.

    Tips and Tricks to Get Started

    Here are some additional tips to help you create effective SOPs:

    Start Simple - Begin with simple, straightforward processes and gradually tackle more complex ones, priotize by the areas where there is most inconsistency and is the source of the most repetitive questions. This approach makes the task less overwhelming and allows you to build momentum.

    Use Visual Aids - Incorporate visual aids such as images, videos,  diagrams, and screenshots to enhance understanding. Visuals can make complex procedures easier to follow. Using an SOP capture tool like the free Waybook Shots is a great way to capture dynamic SOPs in seconds.

    Involve Your Team - Engage your team in the SOP creation process. Their insights and feedback are invaluable for creating practical and effective procedures.

    Leverage Templates and Examples - Use SOP templates and examples to streamline the creation process. Waybook offers hundreds of SOP templates that you can customize to fit your business needs. Check out Waybook's SOP Templates for inspiration.

    Keep It Accessible - Ensure your SOPs are easily accessible to everyone who needs them. Using a centralized platform like Waybook makes it easy to share and manage your SOPs, keeping everyone on the same page.

    Be Open to Feedback - Encourage employees to provide feedback on the SOPs. This feedback loop helps identify areas for improvement and ensures the SOPs remain practical and relevant.


    Creating Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) is essential for the growth and efficiency of your business. SOPs ensure consistency, streamline operations, and empower your team to work independently and effectively. By following the steps outlined in this guide and leveraging tools like Waybook, you can create and maintain SOPs that drive success in your organization.

    Ready to get started? Start a free trial with Waybook today to start creating your business playbook in seconds and build your single source of truth for your team.

    With well-crafted SOPs, you’ll bring order to chaos and set the stage for scalable growth. Happy systemizing!