One of the key features of an effective SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) is the ability to capture each step along the way. I worked with a great team yesterday and this was one of the things we discussed after attempting to write some SOPs.
One of my clients said the other week 'it's just about creating some good habits, isn't it?' He was talking about the outcome of the work we were doing together and largely he is right. Businesses are driven by habits, or routines. The ability to spot them, develop them and then do them is critical for effective day to day management.
I was helping a team last week come up with their action plan to improve part of their MRP system . During the creation of the action plan two names were put into the 'responsible' column. After a bit of negotiation they changed it to read only one person's initials. This is something that I see time and time again, but often seems to cause more confusion than is beneficial for the business.
Last night whilst choosing something to watch on TV I caught part of an episode of 'Secret Eaters' on Channel 4. The part that I watched was where the so called secret eaters watched themselves in dismay as the real level of eating was revealed. Each time they saw themselves munching away on something they would provide a running commentary of "no, don't put that in your mouth", or similar. There is a parallel to running a business operation. If things aren't going as well as you hoped then you need to be honest and detail everything that isn't going well. When you do this you can fix your problems and improve your performance a lot more quickly.
One of the comments I hear time and time again is 'but our business is different'.... If you are making changes in your business then I guess it is likely that you have heard this phrase before when trying to introduce new methods of working. I spend a lot of time helping businesses develop fast and effective ways to plan day to day operations. A little planning can go a long way, but this again is a topic that raises contention with many people.
There is a section early on in Stephen Covey's excellent book 'The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People' where he talks about balancing your time between production and production capability. This is of course the essence of continuous improvement and carving out some time for improvement is essential in the longer term. We all talk about developing our businesses, but how much time is spent on doing so? Are we proactive with improving our operations; do we do it by design or by complaint? What would happen if we spent the first part of our working day working solely on improving how our business worked? It is essential that we ensure that our 'production' is completed fully, to the right quality and delivered on time. It is also essential that we improve our 'production capability' over time so that we are fit for the competition of the future. In most businesses production capability loses out but this is not a chicken and egg dilemma . If