Skip Navigation Links
How to use standard operating procedures and empowerment
27 Dec 2013 (516 views)

The purpose of a standard operating procedure (SOP) is to guide the employees on carrying out the activities that will achieve the desired goals.

Achieving the goals (or desired outcomes) are more important than adhering to the SOP for its own sake.

For example, a pilot can fly a plane according to the SOP. When the pilot encounters an unusual situation that is not covered by the SOP, the pilot should be ready to use its judgment and training to handle the situation and ensure the safety of the plane. This requires the pilot to be a "thinking pilot". If the pilot blindly follow the SOP when it is not suitable, the outcome could be a big disaster!

When you run a business, the goal is to handle the activties efficiently and satisfy the customer, so that the business can make a profit from the transaction. If the employees follow the SOP rigidly and the customer gets irritated, the business may lose a good customer. The employee must be able to identify the situaiton where the SOP should not be implemented rigidly and cause unnecessarily trouble to the customer.

I have seen to many cases of employees implementing SOP mindlessly. The procedure is unnecessarily but is carried out because it is SOP. It is the mindless implemetation of the SOP that can be harmful to the business.

EMPOWERMENT

Some organizations are keen to empower their employees to act outside of the SOP, when warranted by the situation. They spell out clearly the circumstances where the employes can get outside of the SOP in order to better achieve the real goals of the business.

When employees are used to apply SOP "without thinking{", it is difficult for them to behave differently. this requires training.

A good approach is for the employee to identify the unusual situation and to escalate the issue to the supervisor to handle. The supervisor should be trained to exercise discretion and use the empowerment.

A good SOP provides for the escalation and for the empowerment of the supervisor.

If the organization wishes to encourage the employees to exercise empowerment at their level, it has to back up the empowerment with a simple reporting procedure. The employee have a simple way to report the use of empowerment, i.e. deviation from the SOP. If the supervisor does not object to it within 24 hours, the use of the discretion is treated as legitimate. 

In some organizations, each employee is required to exercise discretion for a certain percentage of the cases that they have handled. This will really encourage the use of discretion and change the mindset.

FLEXIBLE ORGANIZATION

It is important for an organization to use SOP in the correct way. The SOP should provide the guide for most situations, but the employees should be empowered to identify the situations where discretion can be exercised which is outside of the SOP. The aim is to better achieve the goals of the organization.

Tan Kin Lian



How to use standard operating procedures and empowerment
[Back] [Print]


The purpose of a standard operating procedure (SOP) is to guide the employees on carrying out the activities that will achieve the desired goals.

Achieving the goals (or desired outcomes) are more important than adhering to the SOP for its own sake.

For example, a pilot can fly a plane according to the SOP. When the pilot encounters an unusual situation that is not covered by the SOP, the pilot should be ready to use its judgment and training to handle the situation and ensure the safety of the plane. This requires the pilot to be a "thinking pilot". If the pilot blindly follow the SOP when it is not suitable, the outcome could be a big disaster!

When you run a business, the goal is to handle the activties efficiently and satisfy the customer, so that the business can make a profit from the transaction. If the employees follow the SOP rigidly and the customer gets irritated, the business may lose a good customer. The employee must be able to identify the situaiton where the SOP should not be implemented rigidly and cause unnecessarily trouble to the customer.

I have seen to many cases of employees implementing SOP mindlessly. The procedure is unnecessarily but is carried out because it is SOP. It is the mindless implemetation of the SOP that can be harmful to the business.

EMPOWERMENT

Some organizations are keen to empower their employees to act outside of the SOP, when warranted by the situation. They spell out clearly the circumstances where the employes can get outside of the SOP in order to better achieve the real goals of the business.

When employees are used to apply SOP "without thinking{", it is difficult for them to behave differently. this requires training.

A good approach is for the employee to identify the unusual situation and to escalate the issue to the supervisor to handle. The supervisor should be trained to exercise discretion and use the empowerment.

A good SOP provides for the escalation and for the empowerment of the supervisor.

If the organization wishes to encourage the employees to exercise empowerment at their level, it has to back up the empowerment with a simple reporting procedure. The employee have a simple way to report the use of empowerment, i.e. deviation from the SOP. If the supervisor does not object to it within 24 hours, the use of the discretion is treated as legitimate. 

In some organizations, each employee is required to exercise discretion for a certain percentage of the cases that they have handled. This will really encourage the use of discretion and change the mindset.

FLEXIBLE ORGANIZATION

It is important for an organization to use SOP in the correct way. The SOP should provide the guide for most situations, but the employees should be empowered to identify the situations where discretion can be exercised which is outside of the SOP. The aim is to better achieve the goals of the organization.

Tan Kin Lian