Creating standard operating procedures.
Almost every day, we face one big challenge - the challenge of making decisions.
- Should I wake up at 6 or should I sleep for that extra hour?
- Should I exercise, or should I not?
- Should I take a bath, or should I not? (engineering students will be able to relate this one :P)
- Should I check social media, or should I study, or should I read newspaper?
- Should I eat home-made food or should I go outside?
These are some personal challenges. There are many business challenges that businessmen face:
- Should I communicate the responsibilities to employees or should I assume that they will do it?
- Should I go to the customer’s office to schedule a product demo or should I schedule a WebEx?
The outcome of the decision isn’t really the challenge. The big challenge is the time and energy spent in taking these decisions. Imagine, everyday you wake up and you make so many decisions which would hardly impact your life. However, the entire morning becomes unproductive simply because of the time spent in these decision.
What’s the better option?
To create standard operating procedures. Standard operating procedures are well documented ways of completing a task. They help avoid confusion and most importantly, save a lot of time for decision making. As a simple example - let’s us assume you are supposed to create a lecture video on a favorite topic of yours in order to upload it on YouTube. Now, when you create the very first video, you will face a lot of challenges:
- Which camera to use?
- What should be the background?
- What time should the recording be done? (so as to minimize the noise)
- What should be the video length?
- What would be your tone during the video?
There are gazillions of answers that you will have to figure out. However, once you’ve recorded your very first video, you know the outcome - you’ve got a great video. Now, if you want your friend to join your YouTube channel, you also want her to record another video. This is where the challenge comes - she picks up her own camera, she has her own choice of background, she believes that shorter videos are better, etc. However, you’ve done all of this experiment already and you know that you’ve got a great response from the audience. Unless your friend has a logical reason to modify your “procedure”, you should follow the exact same procedure because it is proven and tested.
Standard operating procedures (SOP) help us scale a concept. Tomorrow, if your friend leaves and another friend joins your channel, you don’t need to waste time explaining your friend about how he should record the video. You can simply provide him the document to follow. This greatly saves a lot of time and improves productivity of both you and your friend.
If you do not create an SOP, for a video that you could have done in 30 minutes, your friend will spend 20 minutes figuring out the details, 20 minutes in recording, and then you will end up spending another 20 minutes cleaning up the mess that he has created, simply because his way of working doesn’t align with your channel’s requirements. A task that could have been done in 30 minutes (+ maybe 5 minutes of reading the SOP document) was accomplished in 60 minutes.
SOPs avoid this waste of time and help you scale easily. If you have a well documented procedure in place, the person whom you hire/partner with need not reinvent the wheel.
We should also try to apply such SOPs in our daily lives. The simplified term for that is timetable. Just to give you a few examples:
- Steve Jobs wore the same dress daily and so does Mark Zuckerberg, to save time in making an unnecessary decision of what to wear.
- Almost every successful person I know of has a fixed time to sleep and a fixed time to wake up.
SOPs help in cutting the clutter out of life and lets you focus on the thing that is most important to you - your primary work.
I am currently running 3 different businesses. The only thing that has allowed me to run them all smoothly is that I have handcrafted the SOPs for each of them and shared with all of my partners and employees.