Why Consistency is Important for Standard Operating Procedures, Policies and Protocols
Many operation managers know how important it is to be clear and concise when writing Standard Operating Procedures, Polices and Protocols. If you want your team to follow the best practices each and every time, you need consistent standards for them to follow. One of the main reasons for implementing a writing method that is consistent across all instances of your technical documentation, it to guarantee that each time the policy, procedure or protocol is executed, it is done correctly following the approved method. Given that many organizations have large numbers of best practices, which are written by many different technical specialists, it is easy to end up a strange set of varied guidelines without a consistent outline, structure and requirements to follow.
The four needs driving consistency in documentation
Keeping in mind that the standard is being documented for four very distinct purposes, you need to make sure that you have a consistent method of writing your standards that will meet all four needs.
The first need is for the best practice to be captured and documented.
- Using consistent outlines for writers, makes sure that you are addressing each and every critical aspect of the standard content. You will need to define and organize your SOP with all the critical components, such as purpose, scope, requirements, terms, responsibilities, specific procedures, contact point, and revision history. Once these are complete, you have confidence that the standard is complete and can be used by others.
The second need for the end-user, or employee.
- Using a consistent structure for the standard, and all associated job aids and training materials, will allow the employee to find the information they need quickly and easily. They will know where to look, what to expect and how detailed the information should be to help them complete their tasks. With poorly organized standards, job aids and training, the employees can get lost in the details and may not find the critical information in a timely manner.
The third need is for quality assurance.
- Once your standards are captured and documented, you will be engaging in quality control functions to make sure you are implementing the best practices each and every time across the organization. If the standards are written with consistent format, structure, and level of detail, the QA director can more easily observe the operation, noting critical operational details. Knowing that the QA specialist is following the best practice as originally defined is critical to improved performance.
The fourth need is for regulatory compliance.
- Any industry that is audited by a regulatory agency, must make all their standards available for inspection, and must also guarantee that the standards are being implemented properly. Providing the auditor with consistent standards documents along with consistent support materials in the form of job aids and training, will go a long way to satisfying the auditor and shortening the review cycle.
Authored by Peter J. Rizza, Jr., PhD, Founder, Princeton Center for Education Services, Inc.