Why SOP is not enough..for OEx

An SOP is a documented list of what to do to, when to do, who did what and what to deliver at the end of an operation. A cooking recipe is a very good example of an SOP. Imagine if there is no cooking recipe, we will be depending on one person to cook for us forever! Ridiculous, right? So here it means, an SOP ensures results/deliverables, can be produced, and repeated many times, replicated by other person and still give a reliable output at all times. Right? It is in the famous 3R OEx formula. But it is not enough for Operational excellence

Why SOP is not enough..for OEx

The title does sound controversial, but surely it depends on how we define and utilise SOP in our lives; in business or personal day today., you might want to read this note.

Which one of these bubbles is SOP for you?

Everybody who knew Operational Excellence must really have their hearts set for #SOPs.  #ApaituSOP? If you are new to SOP, it's an acronym for Standard Operating Procedure, not Stupid on Paper or anything funny like that, SOP is a serious matter.

Why #SOP is a serious matter..? 
1. An SOP is a documented list of what to do to, when to do, who did what and what to deliver at the end of an operation. A cooking recipe is a very good example of an SOP. Imagine if there is no cooking recipe, we will be depending on one person to cook for us forever! Ridiculous, right? So here it means, an SOP ensures results/deliverables, can be produced, and repeated many times, replicated by other person and still give a reliable output at all times. Right? It is in the famous 3R  OEx formula.

2. Secondly, we need SOP to make sure all tasks are completed based on the right quality and sequence. Imagine if you start to cook a pot of fish curry, only to forget to buy fish in the first place, hilarious! So SOP also acts as a checklist that ensures right things are done right, hence this gives us efficiency, save a lot of errors and mistakes that can be costly or, more critically, deadly! Some prefer to write their SOPs and some prefer to use flow charts.

3. When we document what we do, and do what we documented, should anything happen to the output/result, it will make us more objective when we are trying to investigate the reason behind the failure. So when we ask why, we can see which tasks had been violated hence, it will be easier for us to remove the root cause to the problem.  A team member who has high integrity will make sure he/she follows SOP to avoid any complication and negatively impact process reliability now and in the future. 

Imagine if we do not have anything documented..  
Have you ever met with a woman boss who yells at everyone when she found out that there is something wrong in the office? Yes, you are right, man boss does that too, equally lunatic, but lets analyse their behaviour at this point, should there be no SOP in your office, it means that it is everybody's job to do everything, and when nobody knows what to do, nobody does the job, and then there is only the boss left to blame others, drama right? Yes, SOP can avoid drama. Ha-ha!

4. While there are hundreds of reasons why SOP is important,  I would like to finally highlight only this part where SOP is kind of a license to operate a business. In areas like Health, Safety, & Environment operations, should there be any legal procedures, SOP is one of the main document or evidence used in an investigation. Be it accidents or bribery.

If SOP is so important, does it work as the top document?
To answer this question, let us look at this hierarchy:

The documentation hierarchy:
In most companies I have seen in their offices, they usually have policies hung in places to remind employees of what is important to the management. #Policy is written and published to demonstrate management commitment to key areas in business such as quality, health, safety, environment, diversity, people /HR etc.

 A typical policy statement.
In business, a manual is a set of documents that provides an explanation and guidelines on how to go about delivering business objectives through its key functions, derived from a company's value chain.
Steps to achieve the business objectives are put into procedures, so all information and transactions of internal and external activities are documented, followed and recorded.  Instructions come in as and when required for special or abnormal operations besides than daily adjustment of work,  usually this is communicated via stand up meetings, email, or any formally recorded means (these days WhatsApp and other communication apps are able to record evidence). To ensure procedures are well followed and recorded, a set of checklist is used as a tool to help teams record completed tasks in a proper sequence. 

If we compare this document hierarchy to activity pyramid, we can see that procedures are merely tactical document whereby checklist is more towards operational document, One of the main reasons I have to say that SOP is not enough is that SOP cannot stand alone to support the business operation nor performance, it has to come with more sets of the document to make sense for the team. More importantly, SOP cannot be contradicted with business strategies to achieve KPIs and cannot be off tangent with the operating model or a person's job description.

But most companies did not design all these documents together. Non-performing businesses finally end up with NOT ACHIEVING TARGET when STRATEGIES and INITIATIVES DELIVERABLES are not included in a person PERFORMANCE CONTRACT, that is when most of the time, the initiatives are beyond/outside of the employee's JOB DESCRIPTION.  If they even achieve some targets, they were not able to REPEAT the success because the strategies have not been operationalised; NOT updated in their operating manual, no checklist, no records.. No results, no improvement.,.. slowwww clap!

Take a look at this simple cascading model:

And this one...

The two models explain different strategies to achieve business targets. One is via organisational design, and another one is via Scorecard or KPI approach. If we zoom to the 'Job Description' box and also the 'initiative' box, we now wonder.. Where does SOP stand? Because these 3 items are all about human executing some tasks to achieve some results;
1. JD
2. IPC
3. Systems and Procedures

Just imagine if you are working in an organisation who put all these three brothers in silos, and at the end complain that their employees are not productive or performing enough, calls in a consultant to 'fix' their people with training and many other kinds of interventions, including palm reading and astrology alignment. When they should have aligned their procedures and JDs and IPCs) accordingly.

Ok, I would like to stop here as I have put enough logic to explain why SOP is not enough, JD is not enough, a KPI is not enough but they all must exist together.

And this is why OEx is a state where all these three brothers sing together in harmony with the right tunes and notes... Just like Lady Gaga does #Shallow with Bradley Cooper.