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What Can A Detached Retina Teach Us About Standard Operating Procedures?

I had a fascinating / terrifying personal experience very recently that had relevance to a meeting I had this week... about Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).

A few weeks ago I was diagnosed as having a detached retina. Thankfully I live near to a superb hospital and they worked their magic on my poorly eye (and yes, I got to watch them as the whole procedure was done under local anaesthetic...).

Which brings me to my conversation about SOPs.

One of my client's team was struggling to get their staff to adhere to their SOPs. They couldn't see the relevance of following a certain procedure; they couldn't see the benefits to the business and for themselves.

So, I explained about my eye. I explained that I had been given some strict instructions (which were already standardised) to follow after the surgery. I explained that I followed them to the letter; I didn't want to go blind.

There was some clear cause and effect that I could demonstrate from my eye treatment, and I then did the same to my client's SOPs.

The staff in question couldn't see the effect, they just thought that they were following a procedure for the sake of it. When I demonstrated the knock on effect for them and the rest of the business we started to have a different conversation. It is sometimes a lack of appreciation about the 'why' behind a new process (and its related SOP) that needs to be clarified, rather than just trying to beat people up to follow a process.

So, I have a re-attached retina and hopefully you have a new perspective on how to help your fellow colleagues embrace the business' standard operating procedures.


Giles Johnston
Author of Business Process Re-Engineering

Standard Operating Procedures
Also available in PDF format

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