Adopting standard operational procedures

Smaller organizations and those without standardized processes rely on heroic actions by individual staff to get the job done. Small companies often start with a founder who has a natural talent for the hard part of the business model, whether this is product design, sales, marketing, or any other essential part of a successful business operation.
When someone always manages to do business critical work by themselves, without anyone else really knowing what they do or how, the organization can experience initial success but not scale. This reliance on key people is a barrier to organizational growth.

Translating initial success to scaled repeatable success

To grow, a company has to be able to repeat its successes, without losing the quality that made it successful in the first place. A company succeeds or fails as a whole, so even though the focus is on delivering a high quality product or service to its customers, success also depends on maintaining a good relationship with its employees, suppliers and other stakeholders.
Repeatable quality requires consistency, to avoid variation that includes occasional poor quality results. Successful business growth depends on consistent quality in the products and services that the company delivers to its customers, and also in its relationship with its employees.

Developing standard operating procedures

Use a workflow automation platform to define and perform standard operating procedures for predictable business processes that benefit more from consistency than flexibility. To develop standard operating procedures, use an iterative approach that prevents the procedures from becoming stale over time.

1. Prioritise business processes for standardization.
2. Write an initial checklist, and implement it using a workflow management system.
3. Iteratively review, test, use, and evaluate the procedure.
4. Enhance the procedure where appropriate, e.g. using manual approvals, automatic branching, illustrations or simplified language descriptions.
5. Regularly review the procedure, especially when the business environment changes.


A workflow management system extends the benefits of standard operating procedures.

  • Using a workflow automation platform to perform standard processes helps reduce variation, increase consistency, and improve the quality of the results. Employees benefit from the help they get to do a good job and perform better.
  • Workflow automation helps a company go beyond its initial founder-driven phase to become process-driven. Becoming more process-oriented helps a company grow more easily.
  • Continuously improving the process models lets everyone benefit from new ideas and optimizations. Only by maintaining procedures as ‘living instructions’ can growing companies retain the agility that came naturally when they were small.
  • Automating procedures integrates them with the actual work, which helps prevent them becoming stale like printed work instructions that eventually just gather dust on a shelf.

The wrong kind of standard operating procedures stifle innovation, constrain business operations, and make the business unresponsive. Workflow management is the key to successfully implementing and benefiting from standard procedures.
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