How Much Do You Love Your SOPs Part 7: Conclusions and Recommendations
By Dee Carri
Read the introduction to our 'How Much Do You Love Your SOPs' blog series here >
In earlier blogs on this topic we established that there are many problems with text-based SOPs:
Duplication is rampant between Enterprise, Functions, Business Units, Departments and between SOPs themselves. This is expensive and confusing for SOP Users.
Text-based SOPs are highly defective, resulting in 2 sigma performance in environments where 5 sigma performance is required. Moreover, many of the defects are avoidable. And, because everyone gets trained on SOPs, defects are embedded in the organisation - ouch!
Workers spend an inordinate amount of time (up to 9.5 hours per week) searching for the information they need to carry out their tasks. This is information that should and can be on-hand and immediately available (seconds, not hours or days).
Time to Effectiveness with SOPs takes too long and it is difficult to establish information retention rates. Someone needing to become familiar with an SOP reads many SOPs, then signs to say “they have read and understood”. Where someone needs to read a lot of SOPs, say 60 for a new employee or new role, it begs the question, “have they really understood and how much of the information they will retain over a period of time?”
I wouldn’t like to be tested on my knowledge of my SOPs, particularly the ones I use infrequently” - Associate QA Director, Chemical Company.
Compliance Infrastructure (Organisation and Systems) for SOPs is not fit for purpose. It is disparate, expensive, fragmented and non-collaborative with the result that it does not encourage and enable continual improvement and innovation; something all organisations claim to want.
All of the elements above result in a stagnant, complicated and confused situation that hinders Enterprise Flexibility, so adapting to changes necessary for the growth and survival of the business take too long. Meanwhile, change cycles are becoming faster and regulation is increasing and becoming more complex. Those who can’t adapt in time have a competitive disadvantage.
Traditional methods for developing, implementing, training, changing and managing text-based SOPs has created a complicated, confused and defective situation that exposes organisations and results in a huge loss of productivity and inflexibility. Tinkering and short-term fixes aren’t enough.
So what is the answer?
“Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.” -- Albert Einstein.
At Torque Management, we spent a lot of time and effort examining and analysing the problems with “traditional” text-based SOPs. What we discovered is that even the most competent and diligent analysts can’t create great text-based procedures, for a number of reasons, but mostly because the very wordiness of them is too subjective and ambiguous. We also identified that text based procedures have inherent technical limitations. For example, it is simply not possible to view an end-to-end process using SOPs as to do so would require joining-up hundreds of SOPs (and most of the information contained in the hundreds of SOPs wouldn’t be about the process anyhow!). Eventually, we decided to turn the problem on its head and began experimenting with process modelling techniques. Ultimately, this led us to design, build and test an innovative solution called Torque Management Process-based SoP (TPSoP®).
TPSoP® - A Solution for Integrated Compliance, Quality and Performance
TPSoP® replaces text-based SOPs with on-line process based Standard operating Procedures. It lowers risk, lowers cost and improves compliance effectiveness, making it a “win win” for the Business and Regulators. Simply put, TPSoP® creates great procedures!
TPSoP® : The Three Components
Process: The TPSoP® methodology
Developed by Lean/Six Sigma/ BPM specialists, this methodology firstly creates a management framework to reflect the compliance and control requirements for SOPs undergoing transformation. The SOPs are then dissembled, analysed and transformed into processes that are linked to the management framework. Procedures become processes that are then enriched with real-time links to associated materials e.g. Business applications, forms etc. Voila! A SOP has been transformed into a process without losing any of its original attributes.
Best of all, TPSoP® is a robust, repeatable, scalable methodology. You can choose to transform specific groups of processes e.g. Quality Management System, Environmental Health and Safety Management System or the SOPs associated with a specific activity e.g. Clinical Trials. Ultimately, you can create an enterprise-wide Integrated Management System using TPSoP® . An Integrated Management System comprises a repository that contains and integrates regulations, policies, and standards, SOPs and Work Instructions and Roles so that the relationships between them are traceable and auditable.
Figure 2. Integrated Management System
People: Torque Management Business Process Experts
Our staff is uniquely qualified in this field. They are process professionals equipped with unique skills to design and transform processes and optimise design for operability. They understand what works and what doesn’t for Users of procedures / processes and for Managers who need to monitor and control performance. Working collaboratively with client teams, procedures are transformed quickly and efficiently into processes and role-based Storyboards for training.
They can be brief and tactical lasting between 2 and 4 months for a set of processes or entail longer term guidance as you roll-out a strategic change programme.
Technology: A BPMS platform
Tibco/Nimbus provides the necessary infrastructure for TPSoP®, including a simple common language for process modelling. As you would expect, collaboration and feedback is a strong feature of Nimbus and we love the ability of the system to report on process map usage, feedback, change requests and actions. Armed with these newly accessible facts it is possible to analyse problems, variation and root cause in a much more focussed manner e.g. analysis of possible causal relationships between processes, operational performance and compliance deviations.
There are substantial improvements, and therefore benefits available to those with the vision and courage to transform, including:
Figure 1. Improvements Available from Text-based Procedures versus TPSoP®
*Traditional = Text-based documents stored in a content management system e.g. SharePoint, Documentum.
Individually, each of these improvements can deliver benefits. Collectively they transform how an organisation behaves. It moves the topic of compliance from a parallel, defensive documentation exercise to a knowledge-based asset that is continually improved by your own subject matter experts.
How to Get Started?
Recommendation 1: Understand the Size of the Prize and create a Brilliant Business Case!
Selling change is difficult and – in most organisations – any investment needs to be supported by a strong business case. Brilliant Business Cases need hard facts, not ideas and essays.
Today, a real focus on cost saving makes Return on Investment a key factor for the business case. With SOPs, however, we believe that exposing and counting the risk is at least as important as ROI. Therefore, you will need to build a strong business case that calculates ROI and also quantifies the Risk and the potential to reduce Risk.
Taking inspiration from Douglas W. Hubbard’s book “How To Measure Anything”, we suggest that there are a number of different approaches to understanding the Size of the SOP Prize for your organisation. No doubt you will have your own ideas, but, just in case, here are four areas of opportunity to get you started:
1. SOP defects: Identify the defects in SOPs, and then quantify the cost and risk of not fixing the defect.
2. Ghost SOPS: Identify and quantify “ghost” SOPs – these are unapproved procedures and notes that represent actual practice. Quantify the risks associated with this practice e.g. product defects, regulatory risk, cost of knowledge walking out the door when employees leave the organisation).
3. Time to effect change: Examine the time lag in implementing change: New regulation, Policy or Standard, Global SOP, Local SOP. Then consider if it is satisfactory and if not, how an improvement might benefit the organisation.
4. Conduct a Controlled Experiment / Pilot: Take a small group of SOPs / Work Instructions and transform them into processes. Measure and compare the text-based results with the process-based results. Project the potential benefits across the organisation.
Regardless of your chosen approach to build your brilliant business case, you will need to start counting and measuring.
Recommendation 2: Socialise the Case for Change
Moving from text-based SOPs to Process-based SOPs is a major change and to be successful you will need to involve key stakeholders. With their support and guidance, the real facts will be uncovered and risk correctly assessed. An added benefit is their approval and support before the business case is presented for formal approval.
Be First to Avail of Our Diagnostic Tool
To help with the challenge of understanding the size of the prize, we are currently developing a TPSoP® diagnostic tool to assist organisations understand and quantify some of the benefits available from the implementation of process-based SOPs. If you would like to receive this to use in your organisation, please contact us here and include your email address and we will be pleased to send it on.
You can read more about our solution on our website or, alternatively contact us to arrange a demonstration.