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Taking standard out of standard operating procedures

Monday, October 24, 2016 - 07:00
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There are a variety of programs available today to bring your shop into the 21st century. Standard operating procedures (SOPs) have great processes that were developed over time and formulated into a neat package for mass distribution. While all these processes have been proven in other shops they are unproven in your shop, where you need them to work.

I am not knocking the developers of SOPs. I just think the word standard needs to be taken out of the name. I worked for 16 weeks developing processes to standardize the operations of a 26-shop MSO in western Michigan. I used proven best practices as well as procedures the shop had in place.

I did not walk into their main office with a thick book telling them, “Here is how we are going to change your shop.” I talked to them, visited their shops and took many notes with the thought that they had been in business for a while so they must be doing something right. By doing that, I gained the respect of the owner, buy-in from the employees and was able to develop a set of processes to standardize their business and ensure sustainability.

No two shops operate the same; however, they all are working toward the same goal. They just have different chemistry that requires different procedures. To make SOPs successful, the employees must feel comfortable using the system. All the employees have been doing their job and feel they are doing well. If you disrupt their day-to-day process without buy-in you will get resistance to the changes. Having their buy-in is needed to ensure what is put into place sticks. Without buy-in, you will get drift, movement from the process you developed, as they head back to the way they always worked.

Reviewing SOP programs provided by different companies is a good start. They are full of ideas that have been tested by the creators. Pick one program that looks most like your operation and then dissect it and develop an outline from the information provided.

Once you have developed a strong outline of how you want to shape your business, it’s time to involve your people. Allow your team time to review the outline, add their thoughts and ideas, and modify the outline based on their input. Now you need to test the process and put it into action. It’s important to be cautious, work one process at a time and see how changing one process affects another. Also remember this is a testing period, not an implementation period.

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