July 27

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How to write procedures that work

By Ian Johnstone

July 27, 2020


One of the most important working documents any business needs is also the one that is most often overlooked.   

It doesn’t matter if you call it the SOP, Operations Manual or an Employee Instruction Guide,  if you don’t have your procedures written down, how will your team know what to do to ensure that each customer gets a consistently great experience?

But do not worry writing an SOP is not as hard as you think.

Your written standard demonstrates to employees what to do and how to do it.

The benefits of having written procedures 

A written procedure is more than a document showing someone how to set a table, use a till or what they need to do to close the venue at the end of the day.

When written properly and made available to your team they can also be used to:

  • demonstrate to employees the steps or process to do a work-based task correctly 
  • deliver product knowledge training to all employees.
  • assess each employees knowledge and skills to create your menu items.
  • assess the team’s performance for quality and consistency to deliver your products and services
  • correct performance issues based on the business standards 

The challenges with writing procedures

There are several challenges each business will face when writing their Standard Operating Procedures these are

  • Time - Writing procedures take a long time, as it requires team members to write each task down, step by step, take photos, get each procedure checked and finally printed.
  • Writing skills - Writing procedures requires someone to be able to break down each task into simple to understand steps, and then list the steps down so they can be easily followed but also provide adequate information for the employees.
  • Changing procedures - As your business evolves and changes with the implementation of new processes, tools, equipment, and technology, you need to ensure that your procedures change with them.   
  • Buying off the shelf standards  - Buying cheap standards documents off the internet can be more hassle than they are worth because they are often vague and poorly written, if they come as PDF files they can't be edited,  and if they are able to be edited you still need to spend the time and effort to make them specific to your venue.   
Be prepared that writing your Standard Operating Procedures from scratch can take months, but if you prioritise them based on your needs and complete them one task at a time, they will earn their value tenfold. 
Sop Templates Free Download

Download our FREE Editable Work Instruction Template

How to create your service standards

The easiest way to write your Standard Operating Procedures is to break them down into three key parts: 

  1. Job – A high-level activity that needs to be completed (i.e. open procedures, service procedures, closing procedures). 
  2. Task – The different steps (tasks) required to complete each job.  
  3. Work instruction – The step by step how-to guide that tells the employee how to complete each task. 
Wi Workflow
You need to write as many 'Work Instructions' as you have 'Tasks' that need to be done to complete each job. 

How to write Jobs & Tasks

Involve your team members to help with writing the procedures.

  1. Write a list of all the different jobs (i.e. open procedures, service procedures, closing procedures)
  2. Focus on the one job at a time (start with the jobs that have the most impact)
  3. Use Post-it notes to write down the different tasks that need to be done to complete the task
  4. Rearrange the Post-it notes in order of sequence
  5. Write a work instruction for each task

How to write Work Instructions

Your work instructions are specific guides on how to complete each task.     How many Work Instructions and how in-depth they are will depend on how complex the task is? 

When writing work instructions 

  1. Choose a simple procedures template
  2. Break the task down into steps
  3. Write using specific action statements (i.e. Pour cold milk into the jug until it is ¾ full, Ask the customer if they have made a booking, Enter the order into Micros etc)
  4. Write in bullet point form
  5. Add simple notes  
  6. Add pictures where appropriate
  7. Get the team to check and give feedback 

Example  Work Instruction

Sample - Coffe Procedures

Espresso Coffee Work Instruction

So there we have it, how to write procedures that work. Without written procedures, you cannot expect your team to consistently deliver a great product or service. 

Plus you can use these same procedures to train, assess and correct employees knowledge and skills to meet the standards of the business. 

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?  DO  YOU AGREE, OR DO YOU HAVE A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE? If so then leave your comments and feedback below

Sop Templates Free Download

Download our FREE Editable Work Instruction Template

Ian Johnstone

About the author

Ian is a Sales & Service Coach & Trainer with a background in over 20 years of 5-star Hospitality and Customer Services within Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United Arab Emirates. He works with businesses to consistently achieve great results by designing and delivering interactive, engaging and memorable training programs, tailored to meet the needs of each business, their teams and their customers.

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