Skip to main content

What are SOP or Standard operating procedures?

 I wear many turbans, serving as a teacher, consultant and advisor to many organisations most of whom are quite sincere in their efforts to improve performance and profitability. 

Sincerity is key for success, as are the attitudes, skills and knowledge, of people. Yet organisations fail to succeed primarily because of a lack of good and relevant management systems.

Good or bad, every functioning organisation evolves a culture a system and a way of doing things. 

Good systems are well thought out and are relevant. They delight customers, improve morale and helps the bottom line. Customers are usually delighted by high quality of products and services, and prompt deliveries.

Their design is robust and effective, preventing problems and facilitating rapid correction with minimum heartache and headache. 

Bad systems on the other hand lead to bottlenecks and paralysis, caused by too much centralising of work or a large lumbering bureaucracy.  

Centralising occurs when organisations and systems revolve primarily around the capabilities and efforts of a handful of strong individuals. Generally such organisations grows rapidly and even profitably in the beginning. After some time both the health of the individuals and the organisation begins to decline or at best stagnate. It can happen in both small and large organisations.

Sometimes in an effort to keep watch on everything and everyone, bureaucracies come into existence which  demand mountains of unnecessary data entry and paperwork from numerous procedures which destroy both morale and cost a fortune. Eventually customers and key staff are lost.

Many organisations employ sophisticated computerisation and automation in an attempt to get out of the rut but actually make the situation worse. 

They would do well to pay heed to the words of the legendary Bill Gates.
"The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation or computerisation when applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation or computerisation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency."


Organisations and even civilisations which have succeeded throughout history share three important characteristics. 

1. They design and implement a systematic way doing things.  
2. They have a strict code of ensuring compliance
3. Whenever any weakness is found in the system, it is promptly rectified and even improved.

This fundamental and systematic approach is the keystone for the success and progress of any good organisation and government. 
In modern times this style of management is called using Standard Operating Procedures (SOP in short).

Most organisations that struggle to perform, do so because of ineffective management systems / SOPs. Most managements are aware about this shortcoming but find it difficult to implement them.

SOP design and implementation is not only a discipline, but also an art. It is not a management fad but an essential tool, and like all tools if not understood and applied properly causes more harm than good. 

Use of SOPs is not difficult to understand or implement. It does however require some training and a disciplined approach in their design and implementation. 


Many readers have requested me to share my experiences on management issues also. Hence this article.

Facilitating the systematic and structure growth of organisations has been  one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had.


  1. Thanks for this interesting post. I have read this post very carefully. I love your blog for importnat information. I requested you to give here another post about SOP for MBA Writing information.

  2. Thanks for the great information you share on this post.
    Operations Management

  3. A Good blog always comes-up with new and exciting information, thank you for sharing useful content.
    Operations and Process Improvement Services


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Last thoughts and words of Emperor Aurangzeb

The 6th Mughal emperor of India, Aurangzeb was a brave but cruel man. While he was an excellent military leader, he was a weak administrator with poor understanding of economics. As a result he landed up being dependent on corrupt, fanatical people who only hungered for power and wealth.

Aurangzeb's lust for power was insatiable. In this quest he spared no one, imprisoning his own father, and slaughtering his brothers and nephews. He inherited an expanding empire which permitted him to rule the largest area of the Mughal empire's history, before he led it into decline. 

He felt that his actions had probably made him repugnant to the people and his legitimacy to rule would always be questioned. So he adopted a frugal life style and tried to be a good Muslim to appease the powerful clerics, soldiers, noblemen and the muslim public, which would allow him to rule effectively.

Like many other misguided men he came to believed that Islam meant only violent, subjugation and persecution.…

The Lopez Effect

Every now & then things get tough for a lot of organisations. This may be caused by technology, competition, recession or whatever. When the nasty stuff hits the fan, this is what typically happens at large organisations;

The CMD (Chairman & Managing Director) will call a meeting and scream and rant on how useless and lazy his entire management team is and how they have let the organisation's profitability slide. blah, blah, blah!!!!

The boss desperately searches for a scapegoat. Sometimes sacrificial lambs are found and a few heads roll and the situation only deteriorates because attacking people rather problems never helps. Sometimes the boss realises the truth, that there is no one individual or department or function that can be specifically blamed except the boss himself.

After venting his ire, the boss will issue a diktat to the management team. "I want my organisation to return to high profitability so this is what the team is going to do. I want you to reduce…

Spiral of death - Ants and Humans

Ants can sometimes get caught in a phenomenon called a spiral of death, in which the entire colony can become lost and disoriented and march in circles until they die of exhaustion. Because certain species of ants are essentially blind, they navigate by following pheromone trails left behind by other members of their colony; they use these scent markers to identify food supplies and find their way home. However, should enough of them lose the scent, they will begin to follow the ant immediately in front of them, forming an enormous death spiral in which they will essentially commit suicide.  Source: James Williams - fire ant expert.
Humans in society behave quite similarly . Sometimes we die physically, but more often than not we die intellectually and the vast majority of us die spiritually. Yet man is resilient and when he reaches the edge of existence will turn around and rise and evolve once again.