Posted on Leave a comment

Stage 1 – Get Management Buy-In Before Writing Your Procedures

sop-management-buy-in

Yesterday we looked at what needs to be in place before you start writing your procedures. This involves getting the funding, creating a project plan, needs assessment and/or scope of work depending on how complexity of the assignment. Once you have the budget, the next stage is to get support from Management and to find someone at an executive level who will Champion the project.

Why You Need Management Support

Before you start the SOP development process, you need to ensure that you have some level of support from the Management team. Unless there is a commitment from the management layer, your team will have a hard time of it especially when they need to make demands on other co-workers’ time.

What you’re looking for is:

  • Budget and financial support to get the necessary human resources (e.g. technical writers) and technical resources (new licenses for MS Visio or other diagramming software)
  • Commitment from the board that this activity will be championed and the necessary support will be provided to drive the project.
  • Communications from the Management team to inform, update, cajole and direct its staff. Unless other departments highlight the importance of this activity, your team can be seen as an interruption into other’s schedule. To avoid this, work with the Management team and show there how this project benefits their Department. Also, you may need to ‘script’ some guidelines for these Departments to get the ball rolling.

While many colleagues may be willing to help, they may struggle to explain your goals to their colleagues and team members. For example, what your long-term goals are and how these relates to the company’s success.

Otherwise, you’re just writing a bunch of documents, right?

How do I get support from Management?

There are several ways to do this.

  • Emotional triggers – find ways to demonstrate that the SOPs work will improve the company, not from a financial perspective, but ways that will boost morale, increase employee satisfaction or provide some benefit to customers. Once you have found ways to hit the hot buttons, then getting the funding may not be so hard. The Heather Brothers book Switch gives some good examples of how to do this.
  • Demonstrate the benefits – after you’ve warmed them up and generated interest in the project, show them how and where the company will benefit with charts, diagrams and other materials that will appeal to the more logical part of their brains. Process flow diagrams are an excellent way to visualize how a business scenario works.

It’s all about winning hearts and minds!

Finding An Executive Champion

Many companies dedicate a high-level executive to ‘champion’ the SOP process. This ensures that the project is given the attention it deserves and that line managers give the procedure writers access to their staff when necessary.

While not every company will have an obvious champion, see if there is someone you can ‘butter up’ and help get the project started. See who would benefit most if there were accurate processes in place. Show them the cost savings, faster turnarounds, and other pain points that could be reduced.

But, I don’t know how to get started

If you are new to procedure writing, then it’s hard to know where to start. There seems to be some many tasks that need attention. Well, the first thing to do is talk to those who currently use the process. This is also called the As-Is process. In other words, this is how the process works  – warts and all – right now.

One of the barriers that procedure writers face is getting ‘face-time’ with those who understand how the procedure works and those who helped define the current as-is process. Sometimes they may have left the company and then you have to dig around as best you can.

If the original people are still there, try to contact them in person. Dont email them or leave a voicemail. Walk over to where they work and introduce yourself.

“Sorry, I’m too busy.”

You’ll hear this a lot. It’s understandable. They are already under pressure from other projects and don’t need another to-do added to their list.

Remember the Champion?

See if you can get the Champion to drop over and give them five minutes. If you can show the SME that they’re not doing this for you but for someone much higher up the food chain, they may be more willing to help.

Also, the Champion will ‘bend the arm’ of those who are holding up the project or slow to review the material, ensuring that the project is delivered on time.

As you can see, if you don’t have an executive sponsor, your team are likely to suffer at the hands of unhelpful colleagues. It can be very demoralizing for the procedure team to chase SMEs who drag their heels when reviewing the documents. This is likely to lead to the project missing its targets and running over budget.

Next Steps

Once you have backing from an executive level is becomes much easier to drive the project forward. The endorsement of a senior figure gives your team that clout to open doors and ‘encourage’ others to attend meetings.

Mentioning that the status reports go all the way to executive level is usually enough to motivate folks to attend workshops or give time to your team.

Tomorrow we will look at how to start putting your team together. We will also outline the skillsets they need and the type of non-writing activities involved in procedure writing.

Confused? It will all make sense tomorrow. See you then

Posted on Leave a comment

10 Step Plan For Writing Standard Operating Procedures

This week we start a series of articles on how to write Standard Operating Procedures (also called SOPs). The aim is to introduce the key concepts involved in:

  • Designing
  • Writing
  • Formatting
  • Testing and
  • Maintaining Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

These tutorials will look at how you can put together a team of writers who can write procedures to an acceptable level so that your company is better organised, both internally and customer-facing.

Learn more about this Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) template

Download this template – MS Word

Download this template – Apple iWork Pages

Is it for experts of beginners?

We’ll start with the fundamentals and then work our way up to more complicated areas. For example, we’ll look at how to get funding for your project, how to write technical writers and how to use naming conventions so that you can find document more easily once they have been archived.

10 Step Plan to Writing Standard Operating Procedures

The process of developing Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) involves ten steps.

The approach we will use is to assume that you are starting from scratch and want to develop your SOPs in a structured manner. This means that along with writing the SOPs, you will also have them written in a way that allows others to find them, update them and share them where necessary.

  • Organise the Procedure Writing Team
  • Get Support from Management
  • Define Team Procedures, Templates and Style Guides
  • Information Gathering Phase
  • Examine As-Is Processes
  • Explore To Be Processes
  • Write the Standard Operating Procedures
  • Test the Standard Operating Procedures
  • Sign-Off the Standard Operating Procedures
  • Release the SOPs
  • Maintain the SOPs

How about Style Guides and Templates?

We will also look at how to setup style guide, templates, and adopt naming conventions for all procedures.

What else will the course include?

Some of the other topics will include:

  • Role and Function of SOPs
  • How to conduct a Needs Assessment
  • How to implement SOPs
  • How to Evaluate SOPs
  • How to create SOP templates
  • How to format SOPs, Process, and Flowcharts
  • How to define a SOP

At the end of the course, we’ll share some free sample SOPs and other resources that will help you write your procedures.

That’s it for now.

From tomorrow, we will begin to walk you through the entire process and look at each step involved in creating your procedures.

Posted on Leave a comment

29 Ways to Write SOP Procedures Faster

sop-procedure-writing-tips

Doing business in China has meant more business analysis, process design, proposal development, case studies and writing standard operating procedures.

As some friends on LinkedIn are also moving into business analysis and SOP writing, I thought I’d add a few tips here. While there is some overlap with technical writing, it does require a different mindset, for example, to understand the process flows and narratives that hold the procedure together.

This purpose of this article is to reminds us that our sales, marketing, business, and proposal development do not stand alone. It is all part of a larger process that involves planning, research, writing, editing, proofing, submission and acceptance.

This list gives 37 ways to improve your next set of procedures.

Scroll through it and tell me what I missed.

  1. Show that your procedure is logical and organized
  2. Make the information easy to find.
  3. Include a table of contents for procedures over 10 pages in length
  4. Ensure that your procedure is in compliance with the Security guidelines.
  5. Arrange material in order of priority to the reader
  6. Arrange everything in the order that’s most important to the client
  7. Arrange the procedure in accordance with the user’s requirements
  8. Number pages and sections consecutively; do not re-number each section
  9. Use headings that make sense to your readers. See Audience Analysis template.
  10. Each section title should stress the main benefits
  11. Each section title should help readers orient themselves
  12. If possible, express the key point of the section in the headline, or immediately after it.
  13. Highlight important points
  14. You can emphasize the most positive points by using bold, underlining, different fonts, spacing, titles, bullets and summaries
  15. Write all action steps. Don’t skip anything.
  16. Avoid banal headings and titles
  17. Rather than say “Development Section,” say “Ten Ways to Improve Your Processes”
  18. Use action verbs in heads, especially verbs that stress a benefit for the client
  19. Avoid boilerplate text.
  20. Avoid hype, padding and other self-congratulatory drivel. Remember that the proposal is a legal document that becomes part of the contract if you win
  21. By giving specific details and quantifying the benefits whenever possible
  22. Don’t just say that you will comply with a requirement — say how we’ll do so
  23. Use a strong closing statement
  24. Avoid business cliché’s
  25. Avoid hackneyed openings and closings that clients have read a thousand times. Avoid “I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for considering the enclosed . . .” Get to the point: “Here is your proposal.” Avoid “If you have any questions, please feel free to call.” That closing has been done to death, so avoid it and write something more genuine.
  26. Make your procedure easy to understand
  27. Use the same terms and jargon that appear in all SOPs. Don’t try to impress the client with your own special brand of buzzwords or TLA (three-letter acronyms)
  28. Use simple, direct language
  29. Close your business documents on a high note. Don’t be too humble. A little confidence never hurt!

What did I miss?

About the Author: Ivan Walsh is a Beijing-based business writer. He shares business writing tips for smart people at Klariti

Posted on Leave a comment

Proposal & RFP Writing Tips

I see it all the time. And perhaps you do too. Letters and proposals that bury the price at the very end of the document. By explaining all the benefits in the first few pages and then leaving the price for last, people believe that buyers will be pleasantly surprised when they see how much it will cost.


In actual fact, it doesn’t work that way.

Think about it. What do you do as a buyer?

I know I flick through the document until I find the price. Then, if it’s more than I want to pay, I put the document away, never to be seen again. I don’t bother going back and reading from the beginning.

Instead, what well written proposals do is tell the person up-front, how much something will cost. That way the reader doesn’t need to go digging.

They see how much it is, have an instant reaction to the amount and THEN … if it’s more expensive than they thought, they’ll keep reading through the document to look for ways to justify the price in their own mind.

Why is it more expensive?

What special results does it achieve?

What claims do they have to back up the price?

I’ve tested it many dozens of times in our own campaigns and proposals, and with clients. Every single time we test it, putting the price up front wins “hands down”.

Here are two more tips on price …

1. Never say “price” or “cost” in your document. Instead, use the word “investment”.

It may sound like a little thing but it has a major psychological effect on your reader.

The word “cost” makes the reader feel like it is an expense they need to shell out for. Conversely, the word “investment” makes them feel like it is an investment that will give them a considerable pay back.

2. Never say “Your investment in the xyz widget is $1235”. Instead say, “Your investment in the xyz widget is $1235 which includes 14 refills (valued at $xxx), a lifetime replacement guarantee, free lifetime technical support etc. etc.”

See what we’ve done here. By ending a sentence with the price, you give them time to pause and reflect on the monetary amount.

Instead, by mentioning the price, then in the same breath giving a brief snapshot of what it includes, your reader instantly makes an association between the price and the return they will have on their investment.

In other words, the buyer makes a purchasing decision based on value for money and NOT on the actual cost.

Makes sense, doesn’t it!

Kris Mills of Words that Sell is a seasoned copywriting professional and author of “How to Create a Sales Explosion With Every Ad and Letter You Write”. More information on this popular guide can be found at http://www.synergie.com.au/explosion.htm or check out more of Kris’ many copywriting articles at www.advicegalore.com.
Kris@wordsthatsell.com.au

Posted on Leave a comment

Proposal Writing Tips

I see it all the time. And perhaps you do too.
Letters and proposals that bury the price at the very end of the document. By
explaining all the benefits in the first few pages and then leaving the price
for last, people believe that buyers will be pleasantly surprised when they see
how much it will cost.

In actual fact, it doesn’t work that way.

Think about it. What do you do as a buyer?

I know I flick through the document until I
find the price. Then, if it’s more than I want to pay, I put the document away,
never to be seen again. I don’t bother going back and reading from the
beginning.

Instead, what well written proposals do is tell the person up-front, how much
something will cost. That way the reader doesn’t need to go digging.

They see how much it is, have an instant reaction to the amount and THEN … if
it’s more expensive than they thought, they’ll keep reading through the document
to look for ways to justify the price in their own mind.

Why is it more expensive?

What special results does it achieve?

What claims do they have to back up the price?

I’ve tested it many dozens of times in our own campaigns and proposals, and with
clients. Every single time we test it, putting the price up front wins “hands
down”.

Here are two more tips on price …

1. Never say “price” or “cost” in
your document. Instead, use the word “investment”.

It may sound like a little thing but it has a
major psychological effect on your reader.

The word “cost” makes the reader feel like it is an expense they need to shell
out for. Conversely, the word “investment” makes them feel like it is an
investment that will give them a considerable pay back.

2. Never say “Your investment in
the xyz widget is $1235”. Instead say, “Your investment in the xyz widget is
$1235 which includes 14 refills (valued at $xxx), a lifetime replacement
guarantee, free lifetime technical support etc. etc.”

See what we’ve done here. By ending a sentence
with the price, you give them time to pause and reflect on the monetary amount.

Instead, by mentioning the price, then in the same breath giving a brief
snapshot of what it includes, your reader instantly makes an association between
the price and the return they will have on their investment.

In other words, the buyer makes a purchasing decision based on value for money
and NOT on the actual cost.

Makes sense, doesn’t it!

Kris Mills of Words that Sell is a seasoned copywriting professional and author of “How to Create a Sales Explosion With
Every Ad and Letter You Write”. More information on this popular guide can be
found at http://www.synergie.com.au/explosion.htm or check out more of Kris’
many copywriting articles at
www.advicegalore.com.


Kris@wordsthatsell.com.au

Posted on Leave a comment

Procedures Writing Guidelines

Illustration of a scribe writing
Image via Wikipedia

A Standard Operating Procedure is a set of instructions having the force of a directive, covering those features of operations that lend themselves to a definite or standardized procedure without loss of effectiveness.

Standard Operating Policies and Procedures can be effective catalysts to drive performance improvement and improve organizational results. Most quality systems are based on its standard operating procedures (SOPs).

With that in mind, you might want to consider the following points when writing your standard operating procedures (SOPs): Continue reading Procedures Writing Guidelines

Posted on Leave a comment

Process Design – Tips for Helping Your Team Adapt

Prime hi-tech project manager organizing tool,...
Image by Geodog via Flickr

So you have decided to adopt a more formal process for getting your projects done, congratulations.

It is a good decision that will help you better manage your projects, make your team more efficient and improve your chances of coming in on schedule and on budget. Continue reading Process Design – Tips for Helping Your Team Adapt