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Entries in SOP (1)

Monday
Nov142011

SOPs

Looking at Operations as a nuclear submarine is my new favorite analogy.  For decades I’ve used the analogy of trains…keeping them on time, the people who run them can’t design them (it’s a different mind set.”  I’ve evolved my thinking due to a quote from the 2001 movie Crimson Tide, attributed to President Franklin D. Roosevelt: I like sub commanders. They have no time for bullshit, and neither do I.

That’s what it should be like in Operations.  Everyone knows what they are doing, and everyone does it.  A former boss once created a stir when he said, “I don’t want innovation in Operations.”  The Operators thought he was holding them back.  To the contrary, he was suggesting he doesn’t want inconsistency in operations, or changes made on the fly.  This particular guy actually wanted Operations to innovate as a function!

How do submariners do this?  By having clear Standard Operating Procedures, or SOPs.

Businesses often struggle doing this because the people writing the SOPs need to understand how they are used.

System specifications are often tomes.  If the same people writing the tome write the SOP, there can be a disconnect.  Why?  By their nature, SOPs need to be simple and clear.  A tome is rarely simple and clear.

Finding the RIGHT SOP has to be EASY

As an example, we were recently working with a client where an application release was being turned over to Operations.  Dozens of meetings and stacks of paper later, the Operations staff simply felt unprepared.

A senior analyst (and former SVP in a financial services firm) reduced this down to a page and a half, allowing Operations success.  It took a couple days; one of the shorter tasks on the project by comparison.

By focusing on the standard process, distilling all the well-meaning and varied instructions down to the standard, and with a keen understanding of Operations, this effort allowed Operations to successful run the system.

It’s a shame some writers are paid by the word.   SOPs are no place for creative writing. 

Clear and concise SOPs, no bureaucratic tomes, are a key.

How does your shop accomplish this?