Creating Operating Procedures


All too often businesses will decide that something needs to be done and then decide to implement it without doing much research into what is involved in the process. 

“Just Do It” can work in some cases, but is rarely effective as a long term strategy.

Before implementing a new process or changing an existing process an operating procedure should be created.

There are a lot of reasons for creating operating procedures:

  • they provide step by step documents that can be used as training and performance tools.
  • they can clearly articulate exactly what is involved, how long it takes, and what steps or preparation are needed.
  • they provide a timeline of how the work is to be done.
  • they can be used as a ‘debug’ tool so that you can find and correct errors before the process is implemented.
  • they provide accountability for the stakeholders so everyone knows who is responsible for what each part of the process.
  • they can facilitate the breakdown of costs and bring hidden costs to light.

When creating an operating procedure, it is important to ensure that all of the stakeholders are directly involved. This includes the people who are part of the process, as well as those who are in charge of the process and the company. You want buy in and commitment to success. Involving the people who are actually doing the work achieves the necessary commitment to the process and the procedure.

Begin with the end in mind. What exactly are you looking to accomplish? What do you need? Who is involved? How long should it take? What are your optimum productivity needs or requirements?

Break the procedure down to the most basic steps. The operation procedure is a “how to” manual. The best procedures are written so a first day-first timer can accomplish the task with little or no questions.

The best way to write the procedure is to perform the actual process and have someone log each step along the way. Describe what the successful outcome should look like as each step is completed. Also describe what problems may occur if something goes wrong. You want the procedure to teach how to problem solve as well as describe the completed process.

Be detailed, each step is important. Remember you are trying to teach a first timer how to do it right. Skipping steps allows for mistakes and can be an expensive and sometimes dangerous way to learn.

Once you have the procedure written down, have someone familiar with the process try it and see if they can get the job done just by following the procedure. Then get someone who knows nothing to try the procedure. If the procedure works, then implement it.

Yes, it sounds time consuming, but think about how expensive and time consuming it is if things keep having to be fixed or replaced because the procedure is not in place.

Remember: Procedures = Proficiency = Productivity = Profitability

About Lynn Herkes

Lynn Herkes has over 26 years experience and education in customer service, production, process improvement, quality control, and engineering. She has a broad industry background including aerospace, tourism, travel, hotel, restaurant, property management, customer service, equestrian training, scuba instruction, business and project management, operations, and ownership.

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