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Why can Standard Operating Procedures Manuals fail?

When compiling a Standard Operating Procedures Manual, you must keep in mind that people are involved.  You need their cooperation and buy-in in order to achieve a good end result.  They must understand how they will benefit by the whole process.  It is a creative process which involves the cooperation between managers, employees, and advisors.

Creating a Standard Operating Procedures Manual is a cyclical process.  It can best be illustrated below.

Standard Operating Procedures Process


This process includes planning for results, development, implementation, monitoring, and performance feedback.

If you develop a SOP Manual and simply impose it on your employees, your efforts will be futile.  In fact, it is more likely that you will create resentment, rejection of the SOP Manual, and other small acts of sabotage which defeat your purpose.

Everyone who is affected by the SOP Manual should contribute to its development.  If you do not succeed in involving them in the right way, all your efforts are in vain.

Reasons why Standard Operating Procedure Manuals fail to be effective always include the people involved.  Here are examples of the causes for failure

1.           Top management is not committed to the process

It is the task of top management, once they decide to create a SOP Manual, to actually follow through and focus the employees’ attention on the goals and benefits of the SOP Manual by communicating with them, and being open to suggestions from all employees throughout the whole process.  If they are not enthusiastic about it, they cannot expect their employees to support it.

 2.           Employees mistrust the motives of management

This is a big problem, especially if matters have not been going well between the management and employees prior to the SOP process initiation.  A culture of openness and fairness is far more conducive to producing positive results.

 3.           Resistance to change

It can be difficult for some employees to help develop and adapt to new procedures.  They may be very comfortable with the status quo, and not see the need to looking for better ways to do things.

 4.           Lack of clear communication

Employees should be informed about the whole aim of creating Standard Operating Procedures before trying to get their input.  They must understand that any input from them is valued, no matter how small it is.  They are, after all, the experts at what they do. They must also feel safe to air problems experienced previously in a procedure, even if it may prove contentious.


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