Agile Business Strategy: Making Room for Standard Operating Procedures

Using a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)—step-by-step instructions for your team to execute on routine tasks—can help keep your agile business strategy running smoothly.
June 18, 2018

An agile business strategy is a business methodology designed to keep a company flexible and robust. 

Agile companies are characterized as being lean, fast-moving, sensitive to change and provide rapid responses to evolving competitive landscapes. Businesses that have an agile business strategy can be flexible and nimble and respond quickly to the changes in the market.

To help your business stay lean and agile, you may want to consider implementing a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for you and your team. (If your team has done the same task twice, then having an SOP for the task can be beneficial.)

Standard Operating Procedures' Role in an Agile Business Strategy

An SOP is a set of step-by-step instructions for all the tasks required to keep your company going. This allows you and your team to record all of your tasks, stay organized and create consistency in work product.

It can be a combination of videos, screenshares, checklists, bullet points and software login information. All of these procedures are then stored in a location accessible by all team members. Anytime a team member is ill or out for the day, someone else can step in seamlessly to complete the task without causing a disruption for the business.

Keep the process clear and concise so even if a person from outside the organization had to follow the process, it would make sense.

​Having an SOP can help businesses eliminate knowledge loss. A mistake I see companies make is having the individual responsible for the procedure retain all information about that task. Typically, all the steps to execute the procedure are just in his or her head. What if that team member decides to leave the company

Without an SOP, all that knowledge needs to be recreated on the fly, causing inefficiencies and tying up resources. For example, if a team member is on paternity leave, with an SOP, all team members can follow a procedure and continue the normal business operations while the team member is away.

An SOP can help improve quality, reduce errors and create consistency in deliverables across individual employees, as well as across departments. Moreover, an SOP may help cut down on resource costs because it requires less training resources for when new team members join the team.

Creating an SOP for Your Business

Creating an SOP will be a project within itself. I am going to outline some best practices on how to create an SOP, but it will take some resources to complete the final procedures document. 

I get pushback when I recommend an SOP to entrepreneurs as most entrepreneurs are already busy, however sometimes you have to take a step back to take two steps forward. To get started, get initial feedback from your team members. Letting them know that this project is coming down the pipeline can help avoid pushback and miscommunications.

After that, request that each team member record all the task that he or she does on a regular basis. (It's important that each procedure have an owner. These tasks could be daily, weekly, monthly or even yearly.)

For each procedure, the owner creates the steps of each procedure—for example, which URL to input into the browser, the login details, where to click, etc. The steps could be a series of videos, checklists or written instructions. Additionally, if certain terminology or acronyms are utilized, they need to be clarified and defined in the SOP.

The main point is to keep the process clear and concise so even if a person from outside the organization had to follow the process, it would make sense. The owner should update the process in the event there are changes or a new method is used to execute on the process.

SOP Platforms

It's not necessary to make SOPs fancy or complicated. When I set up the SOP for my business, I used a simple and free method: Google Sheets. I created columns for the name of the project, URL and login details, links to instructional videos and written step-by -step process.

Another free software platform is Trello. Trello is a project management tool, however it fits well as a platform to house your procedures. You can invite your team to Trello, so it's also accessible and collaborative. 

Trello is set up with cards and each card can be a procedure. With each card, you can also create checklists and notes, and attach documents.

For instructional videos, I use a free platform called Jing. The platform allows you to record a video of your screen for up to five minutes and the video can be accessed via a shareable link. Free Screen Recorder Online and Free Screen Grabber Online are two other free platforms on the market that allow you to capture your screen similarly.

If you would rather get a tool specifically designed for SOPs, then I would suggest Sweetprocess or Process Street.

Sweetprocess is a paid platform (starting at $39 per month after the 14-day free trial) that allows you to set up checklists, add images or screenshots and share processes with team members. Additionally, Sweetprocess tracks activity and process as your team members are completing their tasks, which is an add-on to Google Sheets and Trello's capabilities.

Process Street is similar to Sweetprocess in capabilities, albeit slightly less costly with a starting price of $15/month. The main difference I noticed is you can create a template for your process and use it as often as you'd like. 

With constant change in the marketplace, staying lean and agile can be beneficial to businesses. Adopting an SOP in your business could help save costs and avoid team inefficiencies.

Read more articles on organizational productivity.

Photo: Getty Images